Editorials

Editorial: Don’t ignore sophomores

By
Monday, November 18, 2013

One of the benefits of Brown is the degree of freedom with which students are entrusted to design their educations. The Open Curriculum is, of course, a major component of this autonomy, and the ability to craft independent studies and concentrations also allows our school to stand out in its educational approach. Yet this vast freedom can be accompanied by feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices one has to make in his or her first two years before choosing a concentration. For this purpose, first-years have specific resources designated for them, such as the Meiklejohn Advising Program, as well as other programs designed to help new students acclimate to college and begin their paths of liberal learning. But Brown does not do enough to continue these support networks for sophomores. The Matched Advising Program for Sophomores and advising networks for second-years are steps in the right direction, but we believe more steps can and should be taken.

The end of the first year brings with it a number of changes. No longer are Brown students living in a “unit” of peers their own age in buildings solely reserved for them. Sophomores who lived together a year before in Keeney Quadrangle might be as far apart as Perkins Hall and Plantations House. Advisers no longer hold meetings with their advising groups and sometimes even fail to meet with their advisees, choosing instead to drop them semi-annual emails containing their PIN codes. The Meiklejohn resource of the previous year is gone. Sophomores usually find themselves in more advanced courses and want to know how to learn more about specific departments or programs. Just as they arrive at this critical juncture, the network necessary to navigate Brown’s many options is not readily available.

It is clear that a greater sense of sophomore community and support is needed, especially at Brown, where students are the masters of their own fates. To be sure, there are resources like the Randall Advisors, a small group of faculty members that works exclusively with sophomores, and MAPS, which pairs sophomores with older students in their concentrations. But these programs aren’t widely available and lack the comprehensiveness of many other advising programs at Brown. For example, the Randall Advisors program consists of only twelve faculty members, each in a different department and available for a couple hours one day per week. Sophomores who are interested in other departments, unavailable during the designated times or in need of more counsel than that offered by this barebones system deserve more.

And there is no real non-academic equivalent of the Meiklejohn program for sophomores. Some people have fantastic Meiklejohn experiences, while others have less than satisfactory or merely average ones, but the bottom line is that your Meiklejohn is supposed to be a student to whom you can turn with any problem you may face at Brown. There is no such recourse for sophomores, and in the face of the dreaded sophomore slump, this kind of support is necessary. The greater independence sophomore year endows upon students can bring with it a whole host of additional problems, and some sort of peer counseling or advising system is desperately needed.

Brown needs to do a better job of letting sophomores know what resources are available to them, ensuring the accessibility of these resources and expanding their breadth. Sophomores can feel like ugly ducklings at times — not new enough to be given a host of advice and leeway and not established enough to be settled. This is not to say that sophomores should be fully dependent on faculty members or advisers — the second year is definitely a time to stand on one’s own feet a little more and be proactive in figuring things out. But the University also needs to step up to the plate. In a year that can be troublesome to manage, these students need greater support.

 

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Rachel Occhiogrosso, and its members, Daniel Jeon, Hannah Loewentheil and Thomas Nath. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.

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