Apr 112004
 
Authors: Christopher Ortiz, Nicole Davis

Ah, it’s that time of the year again. This time of the year

always seems so distant in the depths of winter and we count the

days. If you haven’t registered for classes, you’re probably not

going to get into that capstone class you need to graduate. You

have 20 minutes to discuss your course load for next year with a

professor who has to ask you for your first name three times and

keeps checking his watch during your meeting. And you’re trying to

figure out if you can handle a job, 18-credits and a roommate with

a crossbow and no respect for human life next fall.

Advising at CSU is like a Ford Pinto. While you’re in it, you

hope it gets you to your destination (graduation) while you are

praying no one rear ends you, causing your exposed gas tank to

explode. OK, advising may not be that bad but it does have more

than its fair share of mechanical problems to cause average

students to wear out their fingerprints rubbing their temples in

agony.

I knew I didn’t have to look far for someone else that has had a

not-so-pleasant experience with advising at CSU.

Nicole Davis is the entertainment editor at the Collegian and

both her and I took PL101 to fulfill the logic requirement for

journalism students. And journalism students know that PL101

doesn’t fulfill that requirement – too bad advisers don’t. This is

her story…

I had the same adviser for my first two years at CSU, and the

last time I went to see her she still didn’t know my name. She is

no longer an adviser, but the two years that she was were more than

enough to wreak havoc on my schedule and my finances.

Because of misinformation that I received from my adviser, and

information that I didn’t receive, I took two classes that I didn’t

need, wasting my time and money. It’s not like these classes are

just given away for free.

Mine is not a unique case. Students all across campus are

spending their time and money taking classes they don’t need

because they were either given wrong information or weren’t given

information at all. This is a huge problem and the root of that

problem is the inadequate advising system currently in place at

CSU.

Advising sessions have become just another hoop that we have to

jump through in order to continue on with our college career, and

oftentimes that hoop trips us up.

If the advising system is to remain the same then I propose that

they no longer be called advisers, but rather “registration

specialists.” That’s what they are right now. They don’t advise us;

they tell us what classes the form in front of them says we should

take, then give us our SMART form and sometimes they don’t even do

that right.

An adviser should be someone who knows the students they advise

and their goals and helps them achieve those goals. In fact,

advising is one of the “quality indicators” that the Colorado

Commission on Higher Education looks at to determine the quality of

education that institutions provide.

“The institution provided information about how closely

employment opportunities are associated with academic program

areas,” reads part of the form located at www.state.co.us/cche.

From the outside CSU appears to more than meet that requirement.

The CSU advising Web site states that “advisers provide you with a

better understanding of your educational goals and develop an

appropriate plan to accomplish these goals,” at

www.learn.colostate.edu/students/advising.asp.

However, as is often the case, the view from the inside is a lot

different. Personally, I have never talked to my adviser about

anything beyond what classes I need to register for, and I’ve

certainly never talked to them about employment opportunities or my

career goals.

Now, I am fully aware that we all attend a very large

institution with 25,000 students and never enough faculty to go

around, however, it is the very size of our school that makes good

advising absolutely necessary.

An adviser should be a steady faculty contact and source of

guidance while everything else — our classes, our professors, our

goals — change from semester to semester. Ideally an adviser

should know us well enough to write us a letter of recommendation,

and certainly they should remember our name.

There are two primary flaws in the current advising system.

First, the faculty have so many other responsibilities that

advising tends to end up at the bottom of the barrel. In fact, Tom

Milligan, assistant vice president of university relations, said

that advising will always be a problem area in a large,

research-based institution like our own, and when you think about

it, it makes sense. When someone has to teach classes, deal with

students who are in those classes and continue to generate research

in their field all at the same time, it is only natural that the

additional responsibility of being an adviser is least

important.

Second, many advisers simply are not as knowledgeable as they

should be about their specific college’s academic requirements and

the university core curriculum, which leads to misinformation.

Ideally what would solve the first, and maybe even the second

problem, would be a staff of full-time advisers for all students.

However, when the university is already being forced to cut entire

programs due to budget constraints, this is clearly not

possible.

So, for the time being, we’ll have to improve upon what we have,

which shouldn’t be too hard given the dire position the current

program is in.

Most changes will have to come from an administrative outlet,

and for that reason I am encouraged that the new ASCSU

President-elect Katie Clausen is already talking with the academic

provost, Peter Nichols, about this problem. In fact, she said that

a commission is already in place whose goal is to improve the

system so that students can graduate in four years.

Administrators must let professors know that advising

responsibilities are something they should take seriously and that

quality advising is something they demand from their employees.

And an evaluation system should be created, similar to the one

currently in place for professors, through which students will

evaluate their advisers every year. Action will be taken against

professors who consistently receive negative evaluations, and

likewise, professors who receive good reviews will be recognized.

Not only will this place a sense of importance on advising among

professors, but it will also create a system of punishments or

rewards, based on the quality of advising.

Advisers should, also, be better prepared by the university so

they know the ins and outs of their own college’s academic program

and the university core curriculum. They should also be aware of

other opportunities that could be beneficial to students such as

study abroad or scholarships. Not only would this stop the flow of

misinformation that causes many students to take classes they don’t

need, but it will also force advisers to think beyond registration

and help students year round.

However, we can’t simply wait around for the people at the top

of the university hierarchy to decide on their own to make these

changes. If other students feel that advising is something that is

essential to their education and needs to be improved, then they

must also let administrators know this should be a priority.

And on an even smaller scale, if you have an adviser who has

hindered your education more than he or she has helped it, you

always have the option of changing advisers. If students stop

putting up with bad advising, then natural selection might take its

course and help to improve the problem.

I am fully aware of the excellent advisers we have at our school

and I commend them. The problem is they are too few and far between

and that needs to be changed.

 

That’s quite a story.

Nicole is not the first to have a problem like this. I spoke

with Gaye DiGregori, the interim associate director for the Center

for Advising and Student Achievement, previously the Help/Success

Center, about what students can do about bad advising. She said the

first step was to contact the adviser and talk about the issue.

Students can begin an appeals process to recuperate from the bad

advice.

DiGregori advised that advising is a two-part responsibility.

Students are ultimately the ones responsible for registering for

the right classes and making sure they meet all the requirements

for graduating.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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