Officials must prioritize quality of CCAS advising over quantity

Advising at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences has been subject to extensive criticism for several years. And while the office has made strides to improve its services, it continues to fall short.

Students have long complained about excessive email response times and long waits, poor advice and a lack of availability as far back as at least 1998, when it was criticized as the “advising blues.” Years later, the Class of 2012 reported in a survey that they were dissatisfied with their first-year advising, and Student Association leaders advocated for more individualized advising services in more recent years.

Officials have listened to those concerns by assigning students to a specific adviser and increasing the number of advisers available to each POD, but the root of the issue is in the quality of advising, not the quantity. It makes sense to blame advising problems on quantity – CCAS has too many majors for only 11 advisers. But quantity is only part of the issue. CCAS students need advisers who are keenly aware of their academic interests and can point them in the right direction early on in their college career. The University should train and hire specialized major-specific advisers so students can get the academic help they need.

Students seek academic advice for several reasons, like figuring out what majors they should pursue, their complementary minors, tracking credits and making plans for the future. Those are the kinds of questions and inquiries that CCAS advising should be well equipped to answer. But in my experience and the experiences of my peers, CCAS advising can often leave you with more questions than you had when you walked in.

I have personally sought academic advice on two occasions to ask about the feasibility of my political science and criminal justice double major, but I was sent back with the instruction to go build a four-year plan, something I was not taught how to properly do. Both visits were early in drop-in advising hours when few if any students were waiting. They had no reason to rush me out the door after only a couple minutes but did so anyways instead of providing the advice I needed.

My poor experiences with advising are connected with a couple of issues. Officials’ most recent advising update assigned students with an adviser by last name to ensure they had one person to see on every visit. While the change gives students individualized attention, they still cannot meet with advisers who have specific knowledge of their major or have the ability to assist CCAS students with an undeclared major. Instead of using a POD system and assigning students an adviser by last name, students should have the ability to access advisers who have an understanding of the requirements for each major. These changes would allow individual advisers to better answer student questions and give undecided students an outlet to seek guidance if they are weighing their options.

The argument that CCAS advising is understaffed is understood, especially when people are rushing to ensure their classes are set at the beginning of the semester, but it has its flaws. Advisers do not have the resources that other schools have to properly advise students in specific majors. The political science and government department, for instance, has its own advising team dedicated to those students, as do majors in the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design and the School of Media and Public Affairs. In addition, students who plan on pursuing law or medical school after their undergraduate studies are also assigned to separate advisers. Numbers are not the main issue. Advisers need to have the ability to provide accurate and succinct advice to students across a wide variety of backgrounds.

Either they do not have the time to give you better advice or they do not know what better advice to give you. Clearly, if it were simply the lack of time, my experience during slow hours would have been different. CCAS advisers do not have the advice to give. Narrowing the scope of an adviser would allow them to give higher quality academic advice, once and for all curing the CCAS “advising blues.”

Kyle Anderson, a freshman majoring in political science and criminal justice, is an opinions writer.

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