By Radhika Viswanathan
Published: May 9th, 2018
As graduation looms over our heads, it is normal for students to be excited for careers, graduate school, or other future plans. It is normal for them to be worried about leaving the comfort of the school setting. At Brooklyn College, it is also normal for students to discover at the very last minute that they may have missed academic requirements.
Nancy Anteby is graduating this semester, but was only notified about her thesis requirements a month ago. “I’ve gone to various advisors multiple times to make sure I could graduate this May,” she said. “Last week, I got an email that I wouldn’t graduate because of a note on DegreeWorks.”
Luckily, she will be getting her thesis approved by her advisor in time for graduation.
Students can typically get academic advisement from two different places: their major department for questions about specific major requirements and the Center for Academic Advisement and Student Success (CAASS) for questions about general education and Brooklyn College requirements. According to a graphic on the CAASS website, the two sets of advisors should fit together like puzzle pieces, providing students with holistic and all-encompassing academic advice.
But sometimes these puzzle pieces don’t fit together quite so perfectly, and because of the various sources of advising, students tend to get misleading or conflicting information.
“According to DegreeWorks I’ve taken 12 credits of extra electives… all classes that advisors told me to take,” Anteby said. “Did I accidentally walk into this advisement session with a sign on my head saying, ‘waste my time’?”
As the student government president of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), business major Nissim Said has heard his share of grievances about the pitfalls of academic advisement.
“CAASS, Financial Aid, and Scholarships should all be working together as one unit because together they help students navigate the college and to earn their diploma. But each department is separate,” he said. “So the information is inaccessible and the real losers are students who don’t have the time to chase the truth or working students who need to leave campus to head to work.”
Students who take interdisciplinary classes across different departments have even more complications when navigating these various sources of advisement.
Take for example the Adolescence Education: English Teacher program, which is jointly offered by the Department of Secondary Education and the Department of English. A student in this program, who preferred to remain anonymous, was given different advice from the advisors in these two departments. She initially received advice from the advisor listed on the department’s webpage.
“I planned accordingly to what she advised for that semester,” the student said. “She offered no advice on what education classes I had to take or the order in which I should take them. When asked she just said, “Yeah, you should take them.’”
The student later received an email from an advisor in the education department, saying that there were certain prerequisites, as well as professional fees, for the education class that she was in—information that was only given after the student had already enrolled in the class.
“I figured it out with the help of both advisors but what really bothered me was the fact that the information of the two advisors (and that students needed to go to both of them) was not obvious and stated nowhere online or in the Brooklyn college undergraduate bulletin,” she said.
The overall negative feedback from students is not directed towards individual advisors; rather, it is towards a system of extensive and unnecessary bureaucracy.
In fact, many individual advisors have been extremely helpful for students. Gennah Forde, a business management major, has found advisement at CAASS to be especially helpful. “Takiyah Charles, [one of the CAASS advisors], gave me homework and I gave her my whole planner until I graduate,” Forde said. “She printed out my whole DegreeWorks sheet and went through it with me. I think all of them are pretty great.”
Despite several requests for an interview, the Excelsior was not able to get a comment from CAASS.
Said noted that one potential solution to discrepancies in academic advisement would be creating a comprehensive college-wide guide that includes departmental requirements, general Brooklyn College requirements, special program or scholarship requirements, and financial aid requirements.
“The dean’s offices should produce guides for each school because there’s a lot of in-depth info that students need to know,” Said said. “But CAASS only knows the superficial things and doesn’t have the deep understanding of each major and program.”
Said created a 30-page guide for his fellow business majors using knowledge from Reddit, business education books, and his own experiences as a student.
“I’ve gotten some compliments and I try to share it, but I don’t think enough students have seen it,” he said. “I’m trying to get the ability to email all students, and it would be great if I can send this to every person enrolled in the business school.”
Perhaps this method would help academic advisors do what they do best: advise.
“I don’t think there are bad advisors,” Said said. “It’s bad information and overly complicated bureaucracy.”