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Upper Division Writing Exam is an insult


Jesse Bob Harper

Contributing reporter

It’s the spring semester of 2010 and I am excited. It’s not the dawn of a new year which excites me, nor that it’s a fresh decade, or even the fact I will soon be moving. I’m excited because I have completed a total of 43 upper division credit hours at CSUN. At the age of 40 I have finally completed enough units for a B.S. in Political Science.

While a student at CSUN I was named to the dean’s list twice, maintained a GPA of 3.7 and managed to get ‘A’s’ in two of Professor Kappas’ classes. (If you have never had Kappas, getting an ‘A’ in even one of his classes means more than being on the dean’s list). Sorry dean.

Like a few graduates it’s taken me a longer than expected to get here, but like all graduates it has taken some sacrifices, some sleep and some very hard work. So, I am excited. I am proud and I am relieved, but most importantly I am a college graduate.

Well, at least I have the requisite credits needed to graduate. My account is ‘paid up’ and I have no financial obligation to the University. My academic performance is well above what is required to be ‘degree worthy.’ What more is there?

You see, even after taking 43 upper division credits at Northridge, and after more than a dozen papers and numerous tests before CSUN will bestow upon me the moniker of graduate, the University wants to know if I can write an essay.

As the CSUN website states: “The Trustees of the California State University have directed that “all students entering the CSU System… be required to demonstrate their proficiency with regard to writing skills as a requirement for graduation…”

Seriously? I was under the impression that’s what the classes, tests and papers were for.

The website further states: “…the CSUN faculty decided that on this campus students would meet the requirement by writing an acceptable test essay.”

I don’t know if I should be insulted, flattered or worried. Insulted that the very University that named me to the “Dean’s List” has the gall to tell me they do not think I can form a sentence. Flattered that the Cal State Trustees actually believe I have the skills and fortitude required to cheat on every exam and paper I have written. (Wouldn’t it be easier to just study and write your own papers? Which is what I did). Worried because the degree that I will have is from an institution that believes its very own system is so flawed and shabby that I would be able to complete a degree with a 3.7 GPA and still not be able to write a coherent or grammatically correct sentence.

It is not only the students that should be insulted, but the faculty as well. Do the Trustees have such low regard for the caliber of their faculty that they feel it necessary to test the writing skills of their students? Wouldn’t any junior or senior who is unable to write a simple essay have been ‘weeded out’ by now? Maybe the teaching abilities of the professors should be tested.

Besides the embarrassment of attending a University that feels compelled to assure them that their upper division students can demonstrate a, “…proper use of English grammar, diction, and mechanics,” we are required to pay a $20.00 fee.

According to Northridge’s own numbers, the undergraduate student body in the fall of 2008 is numbered over 30,000. If even only half of these students take the test that’s over $300,000.00.

Now they may say the money is needed to pay those grading the essays who are, “…a panel of faculty readers…” and I agree, they should be paid. But I would have rather paid $20.00 more a year, or even a semester, to see more classes offered in my chosen



  1. Ely Jul 26, 2010

    Great article Mr. Harper. I don’t know what these people commenting before me were thinking.

    I agree with everything you had to say.

    You’ve got to be a complete idiot to think this test isn’t an insult. Seriously.

    And then they charge you $20 to take an unnecessary test that they require. How could I have passed all my courses and written all those essays if i couldn’t write?

  2. StayC Apr 11, 2010

    This is an exam to ensure that CSUN is creating and supporting quality students who don’t cheat their way through their higher education. Why are you offended? Congrats on being such an amazing student, but so what? I know plenty of students who had other people write papers for them, do homework for them and made it on the Dean’s List and had high GPAs. Not everyone is as honest as you, Jesse (welcome to the real world).

    During my exam, there was a handful of people that didn’t finish the test… they didn’t finish! The material is ridiculously easy and I don’t see how college students do not pass the UDWE, BUT there are those students who cheat and manipulate their way through school. This exam is for those people too.

    Stop complaining and appreciate your education (at an amazing institution), your grades, and being intelligent enough to pass the exam. Suck it up!

  3. Madison Mar 30, 2010

    Why are you so upset about taking this test if you believe yourself capable of passing it? It is irritating to find people complaining because they think so highly of themselves and that they are above taking a test. It is not that CSUN does not trust your professors or your grade point average, rather they need to create some sort of standard for every major. The WPE is a standardized test, and hey they even have practice dates, so no one really has an excuse to not be prepared for it. It is a requirement and there is no excuse for not knowing about.
    If you really feel this way about your institution and yourself my only thought is that you should have realized it before the semester you were going to graduate and found something better suited for your special needs.

  4. Amy Mar 24, 2010

    Hey let’s not bag on CSUN students, for the most part there are lots of people that don’t even make it to a University!

  5. Ash Frog Mar 3, 2010

    It’s CSUN, what did you guys expect?

  6. kristen Feb 22, 2010

    I agree with you Joseph. The students at CSUN are not performing at college levels. However, the teachers are to blame as well as the students. Some of the classes I’ve taken seemed like they were at elementary levels. I havn’t learned hardly anything from my college years at CSUN. I’m not writing this to make controversey, I’m simply stating my true experiences and feelings.

  7. Joseph Glatzer Feb 4, 2010

    LOL @ anonymous. 8 on the UDWPE! Typical CSUN stupidity. I think CSUN has the stupidest students of any institution of “higher education” in the country.

  8. Anonymous Jan 26, 2010

    Sorry, but the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) has been a CSU policy for over three decades. If the education system was supposedly more rigorous then than it is now, the Executive Order would never have been issued so long ago – but the whole process started back in 1976.

    And as an insider … I’ve seen with my own eyes where students have scored lower than an 8 on the UDWPE. I can’t comment any more than that.

    1. carol Sep 2, 2010

      ” If the education system was supposedly more rigorous then than it is now…”

      As an insider who is a supporter of this exam, you should have better grammar.

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