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Editorial: Move away from sophomore Meiklejohns

The Herald reported Wednesday that acceptance to the Meiklejohn Peer Advising Program was more competitive this year, due in part to earlier online outreach. We are excited to see a more competitive process, since it implies improvement in advising, but we believe the program could be improved even more with a greater emphasis on hiring students with more time spent, and thus more experience, as undergraduates.

The Meiklejohn program can be traced back to a century ago and has become an integral part of the undergraduate experience at Brown. Advisers serve the dual function of working with faculty members and students to facilitate better dialogue and giving a student perspective to first-years on issues including  course selection, the housing lottery and social conflicts. While we believe the program already adds a great deal to the Brown experience, we believe it could be improved by accepting more experienced advisers in the application process. In light of a new round of Meiklejohn peer advisers accepted for the 2014-2015 academic year, we suggest a movement away from the model of accepting so many sophomore Meiklejohns.

As the application process currently stands, rising sophomores, juniors and seniors have the opportunity to apply to be Meiklejohns. Rising juniors and seniors at the time of the application deadline have gone through multiple rounds of the housing lottery and at least four rounds of course registration, and they have likely navigated a great deal of social conflict. Rising sophomores, on the other hand, have been at Brown for about half of a calendar year and have not yet experienced much of what makes a Meiklejohn a useful resource to first-years.Perhaps most importantly, rising sophomores have not gone through the process of declaring a concentration, which sheds light on ways to approach the first-year course selection process and overall academic experience.

Certainly there are exceptions — some rising sophomores are exceptionally well-adjusted and capable of advising. For this reason, we do not recommend a full abandonment of sophomores as advisers. Rather, we support a movement toward valuing the experience of rising juniors and seniors over what decision-makers in the acceptance process are perhaps regarding as sophomores’ perceived ability to be relatable to first-years.

Sophomore advisers simply do not have the hindsight that juniors and seniors do when it comes to course selection. After exploring different departments over at least four semesters, juniors and seniors are frankly more knowledgeable and more likely to have experience-based answers to certain questions, namely those concerning fulfilling requirements versus exploring new departments, taking seminars versus lectures and applying for internships and research grants.

It is not an issue of whether sophomore advisers would be capable of providing reasonable advice, but rather of whether they know little more than their first-year advisees from firsthand experience. Rising sophomores should not necessarily feel discouraged from applying to the program, but rising seniors in particular ought to seriously consider entering as rookie applicants as a means of providing service to a university that has served them well.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Matt Brundage ’15 and Rachel Occhiogrosso ’14, and its members, Hannah Loewentheil ’14 and Thomas Nath ’16. Send comments to


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