The college has a handy schedule of reunion activities here. Unfortunately, I won’t be making it in time for Steve Fix’s talk about the tutorials. Here’s the question/suggestion that I would ask if I were there:

Have you ever thought about putting the tutorial papers on the web?

Basic idea would be that, besides bringing the paper to tutorial for reading to the professor and her fellow student, a student would be expected to post the paper on a special college tutorial site the evening before. (Perhaps this would have the added benefit of encouraging the other participants to read the paper before the meeting, but that is a side issue.) This site would be public, open for viewing to everyone inside and outside of the college. Benefits might include:

1) Students taking their work more seriously. The more people who read your writing, the more that you were about its quality. In my experience, this is especially true for undergraduates when they know that their peers will be reading their work.

2) Students learning from each other. Most Williams students are probably pretty good writers. Many of excellent. A few are superb. Since reading good writing is a good way to improve one’s own writing, the more that the good writers have a chance to read the work of the superb writers, the more the overall average quality will increase.

3) Alumni involvement. I think that there are a lot of alumni who might be interested in reading tutorial papers. We all miss Williams. Many of us miss the thrust and parry of academic argument. Posting tutorial papers on the web would allow intererest alumni to read, and possibly comment on, the work of current students. This would be part continuing education for the alumni; part better feedback for the students.

4) Essentially zero cost.

5) No coercion. As a first pass, you could try this for only those professors and students who volunteered. Selection effects being what they are, you would probably end up with some of the better student-writers (and more open minded professors) participating in the first pass.

5) Easy exit. If, having tried it for a few tutorials, you discover that it is a waste of time, there will be no cost to ending the practice.

I guess that this “question” would be too long for a question at the actual event. So it goes.

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