Staff Editorial: Real change needed in CCAS advising

Everyone agrees that academic advising in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences is a problem – students, parents, administrators, faculty, everyone. The question has always been asked, what is going to be done about it? Apparently, the answer is “nothing.”

Last fall, a committee released a report identifying major issues with advising in CCAS (“CCAS advising may change,” April 28, p. 1). CCAS officials vowed to take a close look at the problems and improve the situation, especially for freshmen and undeclared sophomores.

One semester later, the administrators who acknowledged the serious problems with CCAS advising have decided they cannot be solved.

Associate Dean for undergraduate studies Paul Duff stated in April that the low student/adviser ratio in populous majors such as political science was “obviously a problem.” After apparently reviewing all the options, Duff is now saying, “That’s not going to change. There’s no easy way to solve that.”

Why the change in attitude? Shouldn’t the identification of a major problem in advising, a fundamental part of academics, initiate more than a callous, defeatist attitude from top administrators? Does this mean CCAS is finished examining this issue?

GW students are often independent in their various collegiate pursuits, but when a student cannot solve a problem on their own, advisers should be readily accessible and knowledgeable. Political science undergraduate coordinator Susan Wiley alleged that “the students who are disgruntled are the ones not on top of things,” when in fact, it is the ambitious, double-majoring, double-minoring, take-charge students who are often the most frustrated with the spotty advising system.

University President Steven Knapp was heralded as a reformer who would improve the overall quality of GW’s academics. A year into his administration, many other changes are in the works, but it is unacceptable and discouraging to students when the University’s largest school decides its obvious advising problems cannot be solved.

While an overhaul may be needed, students are not expecting earth-shattering changes – just more than a simple acknowledgment of the problem. The issue is about more than a lack of advising personnel, and if it is apparently not possible to hire more professional advisers, there are more options.

Something as small as a more accessible University Bulletin could help students better answer simple questions. A Web site where students could enter in their prospective classes and a simple program would compare it against the requirements, letting students know what they lack or what double-counts, could free up professional advisers for more complicated queries. Streamlining an inefficient system would go a long way in improving attitudes toward advising and the University in general.

Shoddy advising is not a backburner problem. It seriously affects students’ academic experience at GW, and the issues have been identified and enshrined in a committee report.

The question remains – what is going to be done about it? “Nothing” is an unacceptable answer.

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