Initiative proposes creation of online system for administration of advising

In order to streamline administrative work for UC Berkeley advisers, two Operational Excellence initiative proposals would create a leadership body and an online system to reduce the clerical work associated with student advising if approved by the campus.

The student services team within the initiative — a campus cost-cutting initiative aiming to save $75 million annually — drafted suggestions for numerous changes to the operation of advising across the campus, stating that advisers spend too much time on administrative tasks and not enough time meeting with students.

The Advising Toolkit proposal — approved by the initiative coordinating committee June 23 — calls for the creation of an online portal which would replace paper forms, schedule appointments electronically and allow advisers to take notes and view student records.

The portal would cost the campus $5.2 million to implement and would then save about $5.9 million annually, according to the proposal summary.

According to initiative communications manager Bill Reichle, the executive committee has not decided if it will grant the proposal final approval.

“The Executive Committee is reviewing all student services technology proposals and has asked the team to better quantify savings estimates as well as identify additional funding sources for these proposals,” he said in an email.

On Sept. 8, the team presented another proposal to the coordinating committee —— expected to be approved Sept. 22, Reichle said — to establish a nine- to 11-member advising council for the campus, which would be led by an advising administrator hired for a five-year tenure. After those five years, the council would become a volunteer committee with rotating leadership.

The committee would be charged with “working to achieve advising excellence through assessment, knowledge sharing, training, and talent development” by standardizing policies and practices across campus advising departments, the proposal states.

Putting “policy development” in the hands of the council rather than departments is expected to save $940,000 annually, according to the proposal. Increased efficiency will cut $1,100 annually from “advising students who are simply confused because they do not have access to information about their finances” and $37,000 annually from advising students about their degree status, the proposal states.

According to Mark Gotvald, a college adviser in Letters and Sciences Undergraduate Advising, online portals have already seen success at other UC campuses, including UC Davis and UCLA.

“Such a portal would obviously free up advisers to see students, rather than process petitions,” he said in an email. “It would save hours of time each week that advisers spend answering phone calls from students seeking to schedule appointments.”

The proposal also predicts that student satisfaction with improved advising services will increase the percentage of alumni who donate to the campus from 18 percent to 20 percent.

Student services initiative manager Anne De Luca and project sponsors Cathy Koshland and Harry Le Grande could not be reached for comment.

However, the proposals fail to take the unique needs of advisers into account, according to Richard Walker, vice chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association and campus professor of geography.

“There is a constant interaction to get it right and to make majors run smoothly,” he said. “I’m dubious if this is going to be used as an excuse to cut — there is no leeway left in cutting departmental staff.”

Clarification: A previous version of this article may have implied that the entire student advising system would be moved online. In fact, only the administrative work associated with student advising would be moved online if the plan is approved.