Academic advising concerns jump 12 per cent

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By Carys Mills

Students seeking academic advice are so often sent from office to office without help that it’s been dubbed the “runaround” at Ryerson.

“I had to continually go up to other desks and got sent all around,” said third-year student Umar Zulqarnain. “No one really helped me.”

Zulqarnain tried to transfer into business management in his first year but got stuck in his original program. No one told him he had to officially accept the new offer from business management, even though he was staying at Ryerson.

Concerns about academic advice are up 12 per cent for 2008-09 compared to the previous year. The increase was reported in the Ombudsperson’s Annual Report, which was presented to Senate on Jan. 26.

Issues include questions about curriculum, probation, appeals, dropping classes and reapplying to programs.

Nora Farrell, Ryerson’s Ombudperson, said some concerns raised in the report include advisors not being upto-date on policies and wrong advice given on classes, preventing some from graduating on time.

Ryerson had tried to address Farrell’s concerns last year by creating the Student Information and Advisory Centre. It was supposed to connect students to different departments but wasn’t as successful as anticipated.

Heather Lane Vetere, vice-provost students, considers the “runaround” to be the biggest issue.

Lane Vetere chairs the new University Committee on Student Success, which launched last spring. It has started to inventory each faculty’s academic advising. The next stage will examine other universities and then present recommendations.

Farrell described concerns about academic advice as “not being able to easily access academic advice from a knowledgeable person” in her report.

“Academic advice is important in many, many ways in order for students to do well,” said Farrell, who considers the advice to be a shared responsibility between schools, faculties and the registrar’s office.

Farrell said the success of academic advising varies by department.

“It is difficult to ensure that people get exactly what they need unless you dedicate a lot of resources to it,” said Farrell.

“I don’t think Ryerson’s unique, but I think some schools have done more to try to find a model of academic advising that is clearer,” said Lane Vetere.

Registrar Keith Alnwick oversees departments such as admissions, curriculum advising and student records.

He pointed out that at some universities, first-time students enroll in classes with the help of an academic advisor and in person.

Ryerson students choose courses on RAMSS.

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