Administrative decision allows English department to offer creative writing occasionally
John Curtis – The Corsair
Creative writing courses have been reinstated at Pensacola State College, but with restrictions to ensure cost-effectiveness.
Creative Writing-Fiction (CRW 2100, section 0430) is being offered at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays this fall, and Creative Writing-Poetry (CRW 2300) may be offered in the spring term, said Thom Botsford, head of the Department of English and Communications.
Last year no creative writing courses were offered because of budget cuts. In an effort to hold down costs, the college suspended or inactivated some 140 courses. Among those cut were “enrichment” courses such as creative writing and electives not required for any particular degree.
Bill Fisher, who has taught Creative Writing-Fiction for more than 20 years, usually attracts a full class of students. As of Aug. 13, his reinstated class had 17 students. Enrollment is capped at 24, “but maybe we can accept a couple extra,” Botsford said.
To be cost-effective, the class must enroll 20 students and be taught as a faculty overload (voluntarily chosen by a professor) or by a part-time professor.
Dr. Martin Gonzalez, vice president of instructional affairs, said a slightly better budgetary picture was a factor in reinstating courses like this: “We were able to allow a few courses to continue to be offered provided they maintain a minimum of 20 students.”
Some English faculty members were disappointed when the course was suspended in 2009, including Marian Wernicke, a recently retired Pensacola State professor who taught the poetry class for 20 years. She said the decision to suspend the class was “short-sighted.”
“We had quite a few students over the past 25 years go on to four-year universities to pursue a degree in creative writing and English based on positive experiences here,” she added.
Botsford said that “the value of a creative writing can’t be measured solely by dollars or by FTE count. The kind of learning that can take place-deep active learning involving the imagination-makes the course an especially valuable elective.”
At the heart of the decision to include or exclude courses from the college’s curriculum are the State of Florida’s budgetary woes.
Given the sluggish economy and catastrophes like the oil spill, the outlook for more state funding is grim, according to Larry Bracken, director of government affairs at Pensacola State.
“Money from the Florida Legislature will be short for the next decade,” Bracken said. “They [the lawmakers] simply do not have it.”