The DE reported the other day on a change in the works to shift some advising responsibilities from academic advisors to faculty. The Provost quickly enough shot down the story in an email sent to deans (and pasted below). The story has arisen thanks to a report on campus advising by an outside consultant (embedded below). This report is highly critical--critical of what it termed a "chaos model" of campus advising, with a particular weakness in advising for pre-major students. The report (which I've just skimmed) does briefly discuss the advisory role of faculty, but only as a very secondary matter, as something warranting further study. Money quote: "This report does not focus on the role of faculty advisors or the potential for further development of faculty advising at SIU" (p. 11).
So unless there are internal plans afoot that I'm not privy to, I don't think there's any real problem here from a faculty perspective. And while the report was critical of advising on campus, it was careful not to be critical of advisors, who are by and large doing all they can in what the report characterizes as very poor conditions. Advisors have to spend far too much of their time negotiating paperwork and arbitrary and unclear campus requirements and policies.
This certainly reflects my own experience: while students are often critical of advising, and I occasionally hear tell of odd advice given, they are generally supportive of individual advisors, and my own interactions with advisors on campus have been overwhelmingly positive.
There are larger problems here, I suspect. In particular, this university, in keeping with the dominant model of education as a meal-ticket, marginalizes students who have not yet declared a major. In an environment in which programs are rewarded for majors, no one gets credit for such pre-major students, so no one has a motive to serve their needs. Advising of pre-major students should be aimed not only at helping them to find a major which will land them a job, but at ensuring they get a well-rounded education. [Cf. my rant about the plan to replace "College of Liberal Arts" with some goulash of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Art.]
I will go out on a limb and say that the administration's efforts to centralize and reorganize retention efforts for new students on this campus may be just what we need to resolve the sort of problems outlined in this report. Here, if anywhere, the University College is the right model. But administrative reforms alone won't make for the sort of deeper change we need if we want to improve this university. We also need to follow the report's advice to empower advisors themselves so that they help shape the needed reforms and gain a larger voice on campus. And we have to rededicate ourselves to educating students, not just efficiently channeling them into majors and enabling them to make their way through their major programs as efficiently as possible. After all, many students arrive here without majors, and more still change majors after they arrive. And we will ultimately sink or swim based on how many students SIUC educates. Setting one college against another and one department against another in a chase after majors won't increase our overall number of students, or the quality of the education they receive. We should do everything we can to assist advisors outside departments (and even outside colleges) to help students not only to meet graduation requirements but to get the education they deserve.
Academic Advising Consultant Report
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I have received several calls today that raise questions about today's Daily Egyptian article titled "Proposed advisement changes mean more faculty advisers, fewer academic advisers." The purpose of this message is to convey that the title and some of the content is outright incorrect. What is most frustrating about this is that it appears the reporter accessed the report (posted online through the APAP), yet still conveyed incorrect information. To be clear, there is no intention of moving towards a faculty adviser model, unless a particular college would like to move in that direction. We are in no way going to be "getting rid" of academic advisers, as was expressed to me earlier today. Advisers are a key element of what we do here, and their training and development and the extent to which support them is critical. Please pass this information along to your advisers. Tamara Workman, as the Advising Champion, is sending a message similar to this to all campus advisers. Furthermore, we are attempting to connect with the reporter who wrote the story to help her understand.
JOHN W. NICKLOW
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs