I’m willing to question (in fact, do question regularly) whether it is part of my job to re-teach composition in upper-division literature courses, or just indicate that yes, I do expect you to know how to quote, cite, and use commas and semi-colons appropriately, and if you don’t do these things I will (a) refer you to a handbook and (b) dock your grade.
The student essay I just read, however, suggests that the writer’s literacy level is way below college level, a problem that has been partially obscured through two-thirds of the semester by our focus on primary texts, i.e., those written in Middle English. But when a person doesn’t understand an essay published in this century, written for a student audience, there’s a problem that is way, way beyond my ability to solve. There may be an undiagnosed learning disability, or the student may simply have been passed through courses that Stu should by rights have failed.
I’m sorry this happened. I have no idea how Stu got to be an English major with this level of difficulty in reading and writing. But I’m not a literacy specialist. I teach Middle English literature and language, not middle school language arts. I’m signing off on this one. Even if Stu does come to office hours (a request I made weeks ago, which has been been ignored), I’ll punt, and recommend various other campus agencies that would be more use.
So, should I teach semi-colons, or just take points off for using them wrong?