Faculty examine first-year advising

Following two years of adapting the first-year advisor-advisee matching system (“Academic advising to see further evaluation,” March 9), faculty continue to discuss the possibility of changing the first-year advising system to better fit students’ needs. At last Wednesday’s faculty meeting, Dean Bolton brought up the problems associated with the first-year advising system before opening the floor to faculty discussion on the topic.

Under the current first-year advising system, first-years are required to meet with their faculty advisor during First Days. Following a meeting with their advisors, pre-registration holds are taken off students’ PeopleSoft accounts, allowing them to register for classes. As many students have trouble meeting with their advisors during such a busy time, enrollment caps on courses may prevent first-years from getting into courses that have already filled up by the time their holds are taken off. Questions of fairness in terms of when upperclassmen and first-years get a chance to register for classes have been raised, as have questions concerning the effectiveness of a system that crams placement exams, advising meetings and all types of orientations into one week.

“Right now, [the first-year advisor meeting over First Days] is a very important meeting for students and faculty,” Bolton said. “Every professor expects to be there on that Wednesday [before classes start], and students like the structure of the system.”

Certain options that were raised included giving first-years and their advisors more access to each other over the summer or changing the timing of the advising hold so that students were allowed to preregister for classes but had to meet with their advisors before the conclusion of the drop-add period that precedes the start of classes.

“I’ve been talking to the [Committee on Educational Policy] about how to make things work best for students when it comes to pre-registration, add-drop and advising,” Bolton said. “Right now they’re linked in one particular way.”

Colin Adams, professor of mathematics, voiced concerns about one proposal, which suggested that students meet with their advisors immediately upon arriving on campus, before placement exams or orientation trips take place. “I was a bit concerned because a lot of the discussion was circling around this idea of moving the discussions earlier in the process of that period when first-year students are on campus,” he said. “I don’t feel like I can advise students on the courses they should take until they get their … exam scores back, and if they haven’t taken the quantitative studies exam yet and they haven’t taken the placement exams for all the different departments, I can’t really help them.”
Adams added that while his concerns would be alleviated by moving up the timing of placement exams, doing so also posed logistical difficulties. “It’s just a little hard to imagine how that would work,” he said. “So for me, it’s just a little hard to picture these changes because of that.”

In addition, Adams went on to say that while the concerns of first-year students regarding not getting into classes are well-founded, there is another argument to be made. “I do understand the disadvantage to the first-year students, but I also understand the argument which someone made at the meeting, which was that in some sense, maybe it’s appropriate for sophomores and juniors and seniors to have a shot … at certain courses before the first-years do,”hen the student has been dropped from those classes.

Hardenbergh added that a similar system has not been used in the past because faculty do not always cut their classes on time. “Still, I would encourage students to e-mail their professors,” she said, adding that numerous e-mails are hard for professors to ignore.

“I think this is a victory for students,” Hardenbergh said. “It will alleviate a lot of mystery.”
The third portion of the motion states that faculty cannot cut students arbitrarily on the first day of classes. “Everyone knows that you should deal with over-enrollment before the first day of classes, but the faculty have never come together and it hasn’t been written down before,” Hardenbergh said.
The fourth part of the motion states that after pre-registration has occurred, a faculty member cannot add a cap to a class or change the existing cap.

All motions were voted on as a “package deal” according to Hardenbergh. “The CEP felt we couldn’t have one [of the motion’s parts] without the others,” she said.

“The CEP spent a considerable amount of time fine-tuning this motion in order to take into account the concerns of students, faculty and the registrar’s office,” Hedreen said. “The CEP as a whole supports it; it doesn’t represent the interests of any one constituency at the College at the expense of another.”
Hardenbergh said that she views the changes put forth in the motion as a success for students. “I think that with over-enrollment there is no simple solution,” she said. “At the end of the day, we want small classes, so not everyone is going to get into all of the classes they want.”

Hardenbergh added that the motion also addressed the problem of a lack of information that was present in the registration process previously. “One of the biggest problems with registration is that there is a lot of mystery, and [the ideas set forth in the motion] work to alleviate that,” she said.

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