With the myriad of academic and extracurricular resources available at Brown, communication must exist among the various support systems in order to provide coherent, consistent advice. First-years typically receive an adviser — either a faculty member or a dean — along with a Meiklejohn peer adviser; transfer students also receive a similar mix of a faculty adviser along with a peer counselor. As problems or questions arise, these support networks falter when separate advisers offer contradicting recommendations or no one steps in to fill the gaps.
Navigating Brown’s extensive maze of support systems can be stressful and confusing, especially for new students. Both advisers and Meiklejohns have their merits. Yet their perspectives often clash. Because Meiklejohns have first-hand knowledge of the stress caused by schoolwork, they have a better understanding of which classes should not be taken together. On the other hand, advisers are much more likely to push students to continue with a difficult course load or with classes no longer pertaining to their interests.
The disparity between these two positions can amplify students’ confusion over their concentrations or class selections. In desperate times, new students get advice from every avenue available. They talk to fellow students, Meiklejohns, faculty members and deans. Somewhere along this line of varying support networks, advice starts to get muddled and disorganized. New students, still uncertain of their academic goals and plans, feel the burden of this scattered guidance.
This situation can be mended in two ways. First, the academic services currently provided could be simplified through retention of only essential resources. Second, advisers and Meiklejohns could meet more frequently and focus on providing uniform advice. Perhaps this could be facilitated with more frequent meetings between Meiklejohns to coordinate counseling for each student.
The administration must decide which resources provide the best source of guidance for new students. Meiklejohns understand academic confusion. As peers, they are able to promote the open curriculum more freely than an adviser who may be looking for a student to hone in on a particular interest. Therefore, the administration could make first-years contact Meiklejohns first; faculty members and deans can be available as a secondary resource.
In the case where new students have to approach academic deans, the advice given should not contradict that doled out by peer Meiklejohns. This would defeat the purpose of support systems. These networks exist to help students make important decisions, not to confuse or misdirect them.
To provide accurate guidance for students, advisers should be willing to listen to these peer counselors and vice-versa. In the end, a more coherent, organized support network would allow students to make informed decisions about their academic experience. Quality, not quantity, of advice should be the goal.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.