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Editorial | Resolution step forward in fixing flawed advising

Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 08:03


A resolution passed by the Tufts Community Union Senate on Sunday calling for improvements to pre-major advising brings attention to a frequently overlooked shortcoming of the Tufts experience: undergraduate advising. This is merely the first step to fixing an advising system in need of serious repair. 

The resolution addresses several student concerns with the undergraduate advising system, namely inadequate training of faculty advisors and the general lack of educational resources for students regarding advising options. It calls for both increased training standards for pre-major advisors, who are only required to attend a one-hour development workshop as preparation for their advising duties, and resources being available to the student body via Trunk. 

Insufficient training is at the root of several of the problems identified in the resolution. This results in an advising system in which few faculty mentors can speak knowledgeably about major-specific requirements or point students in the direction of those who can. This leaves underclassmen — particularly freshmen — in a precarious position; lacking exposure to the different departments, they are too often left to their own devices when seeking guidance.  

To ensure freshmen obtain the necessary advising resources, the university administration should make changes to both the information available to students and the process of assigning pre-major advisors to them. More comprehensive and accessible advising resources should be made available earlier in a student’s Tufts experience. This involves informing freshmen of the advising process and its expectations during orientation week so as to facilitate a smooth transition from high school to college. 

More importantly, freshmen should have more control over their pre-major advisor assignments. As it stands now, the administration distributes students based roughly on information from students’ undergraduate applications. But this is far from an exact science, and it’s highly likely that a prospective English major, for example, will be assigned an advisor in the chemistry department, depending on professor availability or other logistical concerns. This results in a disconnect between student and advisor — advisors lack knowledge of department-specific guidelines pertaining to a student’s interests and students are liable to switch later on to an advisor in their major. Such a scenario will very likely preclude a long-term academic relationship between students and their pre-major advisors.

To fix the unnecessarily imprecise and ambiguous undergraduate advising system, the university should take heed of the TCU Senate’s proposed changes. In addition to more advisor training, students should have greater control over their advising assignments to accommodate their specific interests and have better access to advising resources beginning freshman year.

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