Advising Program Taps Tutors

Houses will appoint resident tutors to advise first-semester sophomores under a revamped advising program announced by the College last month.

The move resulted from the college’s decision to delay concentration choice until the middle of sophomore year, leaving current freshmen without departmental advisers come September.

But this plan was only one of several considered by the Standing Committee on Advising and Counseling, and a draft report obtained by The Crimson outlines some potential concerns that the committee expressed about that model.

The report says advising could vary significantly between Houses, resident deans may be overburdened with other responsibilities, and the House tutoring staff might need to be reorganized.

The committee, comprised of professors, administrators, and students in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), had also discussed several other proposals, such as assigning third-semester advising to departments or extending the Board of Freshman Advisers into the sophomore year, according to members.

“We went into it with an open mind about what would be the best way,” said Daniel G. Donoghue, the Marquand professor of English and chair of the group’s Concentration subcommittee.

But he said the committee had to work quickly to put a new advising system in place for the coming year.

“We don’t have a lot of time. We’ve got to act,” he said. “Maybe if we had had more time we’d have thought of something else.”

As late as December, the committee was still weighing the pros and cons of each proposal and comparing estimates of their costs, according to the document, which was prepared for the Dec. 15 meeting of the group’s House sub-committee.

Presented with the report in an interview with The Crimson, Associate Dean of Advising Programs Monique Rinere asked to see the original document several times, then refused to return it.

FAS spokesman Robert P. Mitchell, who was present at the interview, said at the time that Rinere had the right to keep the document because she said it originally belonged to her. According to the report, one option under consideration was to hire a new residential dean for each House assigned exclusively to first-semester sophomores. This plan was eventually abandoned, perhaps for its cost; in total, the College would pay an estimated $1 million in salaries.

Initially, committee members had preferred the apparent continuity of the Board of Freshman Advisers plan, which proposed having proctors and non-residential advisers continue to counsel their students into sophomore year.

A tally vote from that meeting shows that all members supported the Board of Freshman Advisers option over the House tutors option, the plan ultimately selected. Rinere later explained that the tally results were in response to a question asking committee members which model they would choose if able to start the advising system from scratch.

“Often students feel like going to an adviser is like going to a doctor,” she said. “You don’t want to explain your whole history again every year.”

The plan to employ freshman advisers through the third semester was rejected for practical reasons, she and other committee members said.

“There was enough logistical uncertainty to make it look like not a promising way to go,” Donoghue said, noting the committee’s concern that proctors would become overextended or might not remain at Harvard the next year.

The final approach integrates advising with the pre-existing House tutorial system, aided by a newly created “sophomore advising coordinator” position.

House subcommittee chair Donald H. Pfister said that Houses had been consulted throughout the process.

“The Houses are generally quite supportive because they see this as enhancing the academic mission of Houses,” said Pfister, who is also the Gray professor of systematic botany.

The College will add new funds to the $9,000 currently designated to Houses for advising in order to compensate the new coordinators, Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 wrote in an e-mailed statement.

—Staff writer Rachel L. Pollack can be reached at rpollack@fas.harvard.edu.