Improving first-year advising: Changing faculty approaches to a flawed system

The strong relationship between professors and students is one of the most distinctive aspects of the College and the liberal arts philosophy in general. Accordingly, the first-year academic advising system should reflect the College’s commitment to cultivating student-faculty relationships. There is substantial room for improvement within that system, however, and we applaud the initiative shown by the faculty in their decision to turn a critical eye towards this program and address aspects of it that are not up to our community’s standards.
Their decision to eliminate academic holds for first-years in the fall while assigning advisors in May to facilitate earlier contact between advisors and advisees is a welcome step towards improving this relationship.

Academic holds during First Days have long been considered a nuisance by students and faculty alike, and this change will hopefully ease and equalize the process of choosing classes for first-years. Earlier communication may allow first-years to be more prepared and can facilitate a more rewarding and less stressful first meeting between advisors and advisees. However, though communication may improve, these changes do not entirely address the central, underlying problem with advising: Some professors are simply not inclined to engage their advisees and provide the substantial resources necessary to enable students to make informed academic choices.

While we appreciate that the faculty has implemented these first changes to the system, they should be considered a small step on a long road to improvement. Ultimately, an effective first-year advising program must evolve from a faculty culture that prioritizes first-year advising and views it as an opportunity to help students flourish rather than a nuisance written into their contracts.

This will be no easy task, nor can it be achieved immediately. Nevertheless, the faculty can enact more concrete measures that will chisel away at the negative reputation of the first-year advising system. One approach to improving the advising system would be to hold professors accountable for providing quality advising through a feedback system similar to tHe end-of-semester course evaluations. In devising such a system, the faculty should think past any possible concerns with anonymity, perhaps implementing a system in which student feedback about advisors is read by peer faculty rather than the advisors themselves. If there are evident weaknesses with certain faculty members as advisors, then these issues could be addressed individually.

We pride ourselves on the quality of faculty-student relationships here at the College. Continuing to investigate advising will show that we mean it.