What is the End-of-Semester “U” notation in writing?

Any instructor who finds that a student’s achievement is impeded by weak writing skills may submit a “U” (unsatisfactory writing) notation along with the regular final grade in any course (including courses taken credit/no entry, even though credit may not have been earned and the course may not have been entered on the record). Students whose performance in a course is satisfactory, even exemplary, may still have problems with effective writing; hence, students may earn B’s or A’s in courses and still receive a “U” in writing. “U” notations do not alter the course grade in any way, nor do they necessarily comment on poor attitudes, missing work, or other indicators of poor performance. A “U” notation primarily indicates the professor believes the student’s writing skills need work. Students who are given “U” notations are required to meet with an instructor in the Writing Center for weekly professional tutoring in the following semester.

How does the Writing Center tutoring program work?

Writing Center tutors focus on teaching transferable skills, not on correcting or “fixing” papers, and work with students on all aspects of writing, from organizing and drafting, to revising and proofreading, as well as documenting and citing sources.

Using writing samples and a student questionnaire, tutors identify two or three main areas on which to focus instruction. Students meet with tutors for one hour weekly appointments, handing in their assignments at least a day ahead of time. A typical program involves writing and revising several papers, or working on a few longer papers through all stages of the writing process, along with instruction and exercises. Usually, students work on writing assignments in their current courses, but if they have little or no writing in the first half of the semester, they will be assigned writing projects by their Writing Center instructors. We notify the professors who gave the “U”s and the Registrar when students have progressed sufficiently to have the “U” notation removed from their records. The Registrar erases all “U” notations from the students’ transcripts once the “U”s are cleared.

Most students complete the program to remove the “U” within eight weeks. Students who need to miss a meeting must notify their tutor ahead of time. If students fail to complete the tutoring program during the semester following the receipt of a “U,” the Committee on Academic Status will review their records, and those students may be academically dismissed. Students cannot graduate until all “U”s are cleared from their records.

What is a Conditional “U” in writing?

In addition to giving a “U” at the end of the semester, instructors have the option of assigning a Conditional “U” during the semester if students’ work reveals weak writing skills in one or more course papers. The instructor will inform the students that they have submitted unsatisfactory work and will receive a “U” at the end of the semester—and may not get the writing credit in a writing-intensive course—unless they improve their writing in one or more revisions or in additional writing assignments. Instructors will talk with students about course writing objectives and goals and also outline the requirements they need to fulfill to complete the Conditional "U" tutoring program. Typically, instructors will require two or more visits to the Writing Center and substantial revisions of one or more course papers. However, requirements will vary from student to student, depending on the skills the student need to improve, the length or the paper (or papers), the revision expectations, and possibly other criteria. Students find the Conditional "U" tutoring program beneficial because they

  • Receive one-on-one writing instruction tailored to meet their individual needs.
  • Improve writing skills so they are prepared to meet greater intellectual and writing challenges.
  • Address writing obstacles during the semester to prevent receiving a “U” at the end of the semester.
  • Earn credit for completing one of their writing-intensive courses.

Please note: The Conditional “U does not appear on the student’s transcript, but it allows the professor to identify a set of specific writing goals and outcomes so students can develop the skills they need to succeed in their courses. Even if students fulfill the obligations identified on the Conditional “U” referral form and agreement—and even if their writing improves during the semester—students may still receive an end-of-the semester “U” if they have not met the writing objectives of the course or demonstrated competency in writing equivalent to their peers or appropriate to their class status.

To sum up, OWU's “U” policies and tutoring programs support an important goal: to ensure all OWU students graduate with effective writing skills. For more information, please see our website (https://www.owu.edu/about/offices-services/sagan-academic-resource-center/writing-resource-center/) or contact the Writing Center in the Sagan Academic Resource Center (740-368-3925).