The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Poor academic planning must be examined from both sides

Weak student advisement and low graduation rates remain shameful reminders of the constraints we face at this university, including too-high faculty-student ratios and the severe financial limitations that force us to maintain overcrowded classes and advisers’ offices.

Sadly, poor advisement also reflects tremendous laziness on the part of individual departments and students. Improving advisement is far too complex and disjointed an issue to be tackled at a university-wide level.

The fact that many departments allow students to go their entire college careers without ever meeting with a department adviser is irresponsible, certainly breeds confusion, and ultimately leads to delayed graduation for scores of students.

All departments on this campus should theoretically require students to meet with an adviser before being allowed to enroll in classes for the following semester, as do all the departments in the College of Arts, Media and Communication.

Meeting with a department adviser allows students to discuss class and career options with a faculty member who should be knowledgeable about their chosen field of study. But this brings to light the logistical and financial constraints we face, as the funding is clearly not available to hire more faculty, and therefore reduce the burden on individual advisers.

What are the fixes to these problems? Certainly, an academic advisement “one-stop-shop,” meant to consolidate several advisement offices into one building, seems logistically impossible and impractical. University-produced graduation “road maps” will definitely start to plug the holes in the advisement process, but there’s still a general lack of knowledge out there that will help students utilize them.

As it is, the advisers in the various Educational Opportunity Program and college advisement offices are already often not knowledgeable about specific departmental requirements and the best paths to take, even in terms of general education and elective classes, in order to best advance a student’s career goals and objectives. Too much of the time, first-time freshmen get advisement during that critical first year from student advisers, instead of from faculty or staff, and that makes a world of negative difference.

Additionally, it is highly irresponsible for a student to expect an adviser, some whom end up advising well over 100 students per semester and realistically cannot spend more then 5-10 minutes with each student, to be able to go through a DARS report line by line, and hold students’ hands in terms of every single decision they make. Advisers can and should be able to provide guidance and mentoring, but it is impossible for a faculty member to be an expert on each student’s unique situation. Students need to sit down on their own, read the catalog, read their DARS reports and keep track of their own units in their majors, G.E. classes, electives and so on. But there are few who actually do this, even in departments that require advisement.

And while it is certainly irresponsible for an adviser to, for example, tell a student that an American Sign Language course counts as a foreign language G.E. class, it is a student’s responsibility to double check what she or he has been told and verify that the adviser was accurate in his or her recommendations.

When pressed for time, and with a line of students outside the door, it is impossible for an adviser to make any progress and get through to a student who, for example, is entirely clueless about what requirements he or she needs, is unfamiliar with which catalog year he or she entered CSUN under, and has never taken the time to map out a personally realistic graduation timeline that takes into account his or her own unique needs.

Students are also more familiar with their own abilities, strengths and weaknesses than an adviser who sees the student maybe once a semester or may have never met a particular student before.

For example, if an adviser recommends that a student take only 12 units, but the student knows he can handle 15, the student should not just blindly follow the adviser’s advice, but rather explain why only 12 units is not a good plan in light of his GPA, the fact that he doesn’t work in addition to attending school, and so on. Realistically, the adviser is probably not familiar on an in-depth level with these types of life factors that influence school performance.

Overall, for students to expect advisers to be know-it-alls on every aspect of their academic progress is as wrong as it is for departments to expect students to be know-it-alls without receiving advisement from a knowledgeable, careful faculty member.

It is only through increased responsibility on both levels that even minimal improvement is possible.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority view of the Sundial editorial board and do not necessarily represent the views of the entire staff.

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