The Arizona Desert Lamp

White Paper: UA Advising Council

Posted in UA Transformation Plan by Evan Lisull on 19 October 2008

Over the next few days, the Desert Lamp will go where no local media dares to tread – reading through all 75 UA Transformation Plan white papers, providing summary and commentary as we go. Follow along as we post to the blog, or refer to the “UA Transformation Plan” page on the right-hand menu bar for a compendium of white paper breakdowns. First up, the UA Advising Council.

Apparently, the advising at the UA is a “model for universities elsewhere in the nation,” and thus should not be changed in any way, shape, or form. Seriously:

We respectfully request that any proposal that could lead to the restructuring of the present academic advising system and practices, or specific actions that would alter the ratio in colleges between students and academic advisors, first come before the UAAC for its evaluation prior to the reaching of any final decisions.

The writers of the white-paper also take time to pre-emptively bash the idea of returning to “faculty-based advising,” saying that, “With the exception of a few units, faculty members are not as effective as professional academic advisors in performing the multiplicity of functions required to guide students smoothly toward graduation. ”

But this seems to a symptom of a broader problem: the increasing bureaucratization of the undergraduate degree (I would assume that this applies for graduate students as well). The mere fact that “professional academic advisors” are needed speaks to the absurdity of the degree requirements. In my experience, I’ve been able to stay well on track without any assistance of advisors, outside of them opening bureaucratic locks (i.e. confirming a completed minor, declaring a major, etc). A few suggestions that might help with the problem:

1. Full disclosure of degree requirements. All this entails is posting very basic, easy to read information about degree requirements. With such a list in hand, many students will be able to essentially do their own advising.

2. Restructuring of Gen Ed requirements. This is one of the biggest issues in advising, largely because of confusion over which “Tier” various gen-eds are, how many are left, etc. Of course, the “Gen Ed Issue” is a broader structuring problem, but it would also help to mitigate the high demand for advisers as well.

3. Redesigning SAPRs. Who uses plain-text documents anymore? Every time I look at a SAPR, I feel like I’m on a usenet and Boyz II Men is playing on the radio. Making just slightly more readable/web-friendly would go a long way in helping students to help themselves.

With these in place, faculty advising would actually be preferable. For one, it helps to ensure that students develop relationships with the faculty, rather than simply telling them to attend office hours at orientation. Secondly, it provides more insight into what a class actually entails — professors can speak to their colleagues strengths and weaknesses far more effectively than a “professional advisor” bureaucrat who has minimal (if any) contact with the professors and classes that they recommend.

Ultimately, this isn’t a proposal, but a statement of purpose: “Keep off of our lawn!”


3 Responses

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  1. […] 2.5 advisor positions: This takes the opposite tack of the UA Advising Council paper, and praises the advising role that Faculty play in providing students with information on career […]

  2. […] Furthermore, to do this, you are required to make contact with an advisor, which only provides another unnecessary justification for a program that needs cuts. […]

  3. […] taking, etc. – many faculty members are far more qualified. Naturally, professional advisors have rejected faculty help – after all, they have to watch out for […]

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