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The number of students on academic probation has declined for the third year in a row, according to the Faculty Committee on Academic Standing's annual report presented at last week's faculty meeting.

Last school year saw an average of 162 students per semester on warning, 101 on serious warning and a total of 20 suspensions. These figures have decreased steadily since they hit their most recent peak in the 2003-04 academic year, when 261 were placed on warning, 135 on serious warning and 52 were suspended, according to the report.

The requirements for "good standing" are different for each semester level, but generally require a student to have at least an average of three to four credits per semester. The University divides probation into three categories: Students one credit short of good standing are said to be on warning, those two credits short on serious warning and those three credits short are suspended for a year.

Deputy Dean of the College Stephen Lassonde, who chairs the Committee on Academic Standing, attributed the trend to a combination of measures that have promoted "better and more frequent communication with students about academic advising."

Increased follow-up with students has been one measurable key to helping those already in trouble, Lassonde said.

Whenever students are in danger of probation, they get a letter from a dean asking to set up a meeting, he said. But when students don't respond to those letters, Director of Co-Curricular Advising and Tutoring Programs Yolanda Rome now follows up with them by e-mail.

"She's really persistent," Lassonde said. "We're hoping these meetings put the brakes on things, so students are making good decisions."

But most of the new advising measures have been aimed at stopping trouble before it starts. Since last year, the University has been sending e-mails to first-year students enrolled in particularly difficult course combinations, such as those heavy on pre-medical requirements, Lassonde said.

"We at least want students to know this is hard, and to provide them with resources," Lassonde said, noting that some students were offended by the communication but that most appreciated being informed of the advising and tutoring resources available.

Last year, administrators also began to identify "students from under-resourced backgrounds," including those whose parents did not go to college, who belong to historically underrepresented populations at Brown or whose high schools had only a minority of college-bound students in their graduating classes, Lassonde said.

"We've been taking better care to provide them with resources," he said.

According to the report, the University works with the admission office "to identify students likely to benefit from more attention upon their arrival at Brown," and last year identified 200 students "as needing extra support and attention."

Lassonde said faculty advisers were asked to volunteer to take a few of these students into their advising groups. Those advisers who chose to do so attended special training sessions, but no advisers were given groups consisting only of these types of students, according to Lassonde.

Other changes to the advising program have also had a role in the improved academic standing of Brown students, Lassonde said.

For one, the advising relationship no longer ends after freshman year. Two years ago, the University started asking first-year advisers to remain with their students until they chose their concentration during sophomore year, Lassonde said. Beginning this year, sophomores are required to meet with their advisers to receive their PINs before registering for classes.

"We want people to get in the habit of consulting someone before they choose their courses," Lassonde said.

Also, the Faculty Advising Fellows program has been redesigned to be more "centralized," according to Advising Assistant Miles Hovis '08.

The program used to revolve around five residential fellows, who invited students over their houses for dinner periodically. According to Hovis, fellows used to draw largely from their geographic regions, sending e-mail reminders to students who lived in their areas of campus.

This year, 10 new non-residential faculty fellows take shifts every weekday afternoon at Advising Central in J. Walter Wilson. They are joined by Meiklejohn advisers, and the added incentives of free snacks and 12 varieties of coffee, tea and hot chocolate.




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