SA addresses ongoing problems in advising

by Alex Belser | 11/4/04 6:00am

If teachers are considered role models by anyone, it is probably by their students. But Dartmouth's student government is trying to find professors who can serve as examples for another group altogether -- other faculty members.

A Student Assembly initiative is set to recognize up to five freshman faculty advisers for their good work, based upon student input.

Freshmen and sophomores are being asked to nominate exceptional advisers by e-mail. The winners, to be chosen by an Assembly committee, would get a framed certificate and be featured in an advertisement in The Dartmouth before the end of the term.

If the Assembly identifies fewer than five strong candidates, it will give out fewer awards, which could also have its upside, Student Body President Julia Hildreth '05 said.

"That would demonstrate to the administration that faculty advising is terrible," she said.

This comes as the latest effort to improve the College's frequently criticized advising program. In September, the Assembly started using trained upperclassmen to advise freshmen. This spring, visiting history professor Cecilia Gaposchkin was named the College's assistant dean of pre-major advising, charged with helping to improve the advising system in addition to consulting with freshmen and sophomores.

Gaposchkin said her role over the next few years will be to try to do the best possible job with the current system in addition to recommending broader possible changes.

"The College has not supported the faculty any way in advising," Gaposchkin said, noting faculty members don't necessarily know how to do their job as advisers. "My task is to figure out what they're not getting and to get that to them."

To that end, Gaposchkin said there is now a Dartmouth website for faculty advisers, and that she is also working on questionnaires to get their feedback.

Gaposchkin noted that the College has many resources. But right now, she said, they aren't always easy to find.

"A student has to be lucky enough to bump into the right one at the right times," she said.

According to Hildreth, Gaposchkin has suggested a system where professors would volunteer to be faculty advisers, but would be paid to get trained. Gaposchkin said any major systemic change is unlikely over the next couple of years due to budget constraints.

Hildreth, meanwhile, remained hopeful.

"I feel like the state of academic advising at Dartmouth is still really poor, but I think enough people have recognized the flaws in the system and made moves to change it," Hildreth said.

The Assembly also passed a proposal at Tuesday's meeting to continue funding awards recognizing excellent professors.

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