‘A lack of respect for our profession:’ Advisers express frustration over lack of voice in grading policy changes

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Photo Credit: Presley Glotfelty | Daily Texan Staff

UT advisers are struggling to implement recent grading policy changes, which they say are a sign of the University’s continued disregard for their contributions on campus.

“The recent and abrupt change to the grading policy for Fall 2020 has left our community feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and discouraged,” said an internal message sent Wednesday from the executive committee of UT’s Academic Counselors Association, which represents academic advisers and support staff across campus. 

Advisers and staff were not consulted in the policy’s initial drafting and later input from advisors was excluded from the final policy, according to the message, which The Daily Texan obtained from the committee. As advisors have to manually input all the grading changes, the policy will significantly increase their work demands. 

“Unfortunately, these types of abrupt policy changes are not a new occurrence for advisers at The University of Texas,” the message said. “We have repeatedly asked UT administration and senior leadership to include advisers in important decision-making, or at the very least communicate changes to advisers ahead of students, but these requests continue to be overlooked.”

Stephanie Cantu, president of the association, said the statement was sent to around 400 constituent advisers and student support staff that the association wants to help support during a stressful time.

According to the message, the association hopes to work with the Educational Policy Committee, Faculty Council, Student Government and the Senate of College Councils to actively include advisors in decision making. The association also plans to draft a formal petition to help advocate for change. 

“Ultimately what we’re dealing with is what we feel is a lack of respect for our profession and our position on this campus,” said Cantu, a senior student program coordinator in the McCombs School of Business. 

Joey Williams, director of communications for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, said in an email that the new grading policies reflected input from students, faculty and stakeholders. Williams declined to comment on whether “stakeholders” included advisers and why students were informed of the changes before advisers. 

Williams said UT administrators are holding daily meetings with academic advisers to address areas advisers need support in to accommodate the new grading policies.

“We will work to enhance opportunities to engage and partner with the campus academic advising community on key student issues in the future,” Williams said.

Mckinlaye Harkavy, senior academic adviser in Engineering Student Services and association co-vice president, said the changes to grading policies came as a surprise to advisers, who went into the semester thinking the policies would not be changed at the last minute.

“We're cool with (the policy) — we just need to be a part of the conversation,” Harkavy said. 

Cantu said students found out about grading changes — both this semester and in the spring 2020 semester — before advisers, which prevented them from developing communication and a framework to help students who need to utilize the policy. 

“We’re advisers. We’re in the business of student success and doing what’s best for our students,” Cantu said. “The timing of it, the communication of it, the lack of including the advisers’ opinions into the actual policy — that’s the trigger.” 

Sawyer Tedder, an associate academic adviser in the College of Education and association co-vice president, said he learned of the changes over the Thanksgiving holiday after students had been informed.

“That doesn't show professional respect,” Tedder said. “If anything, I believe that's one more pattern in an abusive professional relationship that advisers are really holding with some administrators at this University.”

Ryan Nelson, an associate academic adviser in the College of Education, said advisers should have been included in the decision because they are the ones helping students navigate the policies.

“I would hope in the very, very near future that the upper administration … puts more care into the well-being of their staff,” Nelson said. “It's a give and take, and I feel like we're not getting a lot of take, we're just giving a lot.”