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ODSA, CUP examine possible changes in freshman advising

By Sally Vanerian

The Office of the Dean for Student Affairs (ODSA) and the Committee on the Undergraduate Program are considering changing MIT's freshman advising system. The main goal of the changes is "to get more faculty and student contact," said Dean for Student Affairs Shirley M. McBay.

"I think that there's always been an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the freshman advising system," said Holliday C. Heine '67, associate dean for Student Affairs. MIT's advising system is "a pretty good system compared with other systems" at other schools, she said, but there is always room for improvement.

There are several different ideas about how the advising system should be changed. Many sources suggested that freshman advising could be combined with freshman seminars that would be created under the new system.

Professor of Biochemistry Vernon M. Ingram, chairman of the Committee on Academic Performance, said faculty rather than staff members should advise freshmen. He acknowledged in a letter to The Tech ["A new method of advising," Nov. 1] the skills of some current staff advisors, but felt professors would be better able to give advice about academic programs.

An advisor should teach a seminar limited to his advisees, and seminar enrollment should not exceed eight students, he suggested. This way, Ingram said in an interview with The Tech, an advisor could see his advisees on a regular basis and "get to know individuals."

The faculty member would thus be in a "much better position to give good advice," Ingram explained. "Advising gets mixed in with the taking of the seminar in a very informal and natural way."

The seminar should be voluntary, he said, and other methods of advising should be available to the freshman. Seminars are a good proposition for faculty, he added, because they are a fun method of advising and "rewarding to get to know freshman and undergraduates."

Ingram said the seminar method of advising should be used only in the first semester, because a relationship between the advisor and advisees would then be established. The freshman would then not be shy about approaching his advisor after the first semester.

Another option is to hold the seminars in the livinggroups, McBay said. She expressed concern "about increasing the faculty's knowledge of the living groups." The Institute must try "more than one approach," she added.

"I think what we're doing now in discussions is try to sort out which of the points of the advising system are most important," said Heine. Whatever is decided in these meetings "would be a trial for next year," she added.

The advising system should incorporate flexibility and different options: "It should not be just a monolithic system," she explained.