Course selection at SLU a mess


With course registration well underway for the upcoming fall semester, SLU students are once again digging up their sheet of degree requirements, reevaluating their graduation plans and confronting the multitude of questions that inevitably arise this time of year, such as: What classes do I need to take? Do I have room for any electives? And, perhaps most importantly: How can I avoid taking any 8 a.m. classes?

Navigating the world of college academics is difficult enough as it is. However, SLU’s academic advising is woefully inadequate when it comes to assisting students with the registration process. Nearly every member of the Editorial Board could attest firsthand to the frustrations students experience when selecting classes and planning for graduation. As it stands now, disorganization, excessive bureaucracy, and a lack of interdepartmental communication means that many students are left to manage their schedule and graduation plans essentially on their own.

SLU’s academic counseling system makes perfectly good sense on paper. All students are assigned a single faculty advisor to assist them with the core requirements of their particular college as well as a mentor professor from the department of each major and minor they have declared. (Those involved in honors or scholars programs may have additional counselors as well.)Before registering for classes each semester, students are supposed to meet with each of their mentors, who sign off on their proposed class schedule and inform them of the remaining requirements. They then deliver the signed forms to their advisor, who will make sure the core requirements are being met. If so, the advisor will remove the hold on the student’s mySLU account, allowing them to register for classes.

In practice, however, the process is rarely as smoothly as intended. Getting all the necessary signatures can be a tedious process, and even once it’s finished, discovering a “mystery” hold remaining on your account the day of registration is by no means an uncommon experience.

In addition, academic advisors, who focus on core requirements, are usually unfamiliar with the specific requirements of individual majors; pre-registration meetings are more akin to marking off a checklist than actual advising. On the other hand, department mentors are understandably more focused on the classes they teach than assisting students with course selection. While mentors may teach in the same department as the students assigned to them, there’s no guarentee the students will ever take a class they teach. In some cases, mentors may specialize in an entirely different concentration than what the student is interested in. It isn’t unheard of for students’ only interaction with their mentors to be the brief biannual meetings before registering — if that.

Though the problem seems to span across multiple colleges within SLU, it seems especially pronounced in the College of Arts and Sciences. Unlike STEM programs, which are usually tightly structured and require specific course progressions, the liberal arts are more open-ended and offer students a greater degree of autonomy when choosing classes. While this bodes well for those seeking a well-rounded education, disorganized and outdated course listings make something as simple as planning a class schedule rather stressful.

For example, many of our editors have had trouble with discrepancies between courses that are required and ones that are offered. Sometimes courses that are needed to satisfy certain degree requirements may not be offered for years; meanwhile, other, newer classes that cover similar or identical subject areas may lack the “official” designation needed for them to fulfill the same requirement. Though many courses are offered on regular intervals, such as every spring or once every three years, this information isn’t always made clear to students.

A lack of communication between different departments makes things especially difficult for certain cross-discipline majors and minors, such as legal studies or political journalism, as required courses may be offered at the exact same time, despite counting towards the same degree.

To be clear, none of this is meant to disparage individual faculty or professors. The vast majority of advisors and mentors are extremely knowledgeable and receptive to students’ concerns. Like most SLU employees, they seem to genuinely care about helping their students. But inefficiency and disorganization within the advising system prevents them from giving students the attention and assistance they often need.

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