Academic Probation

Our INTD class recently welcomed Dr. Celia Easton, the Dean of Academic Planning and Advising, to speak about SUNY Geneseo’s current academic probation letter. She wanted to share with us her goal of revising the letter to discard of its negative tone. As of now, the letter has tendencies to make students feel as though they have no chance of improving after their academic mishap. Dean Easton reviewed the letter with us to point out its noticeable flaws and prepared us to work on revising it as a class through academic partnership.

At most colleges, academic probation influences students to work towards maintaining a spot at the institution. The letter that is currently sent to SUNY Geneseo students informing them of academic probation has positive and negative aspects.

On a positive note, the letter does an efficient job of informing the students of their academic probation. As visible in SUNY Geneseo’s academic probation letter, it states that “You have been placed on academic probation.” Including this statement in obvious terms is important because students must understand their academic standing. Students must hear this message in a disciplinary tone because “not writing the letter in a serious way can lead to the student not taking the letter seriously,” as stated by Dean Easton. If the message is not written in a serious tone, students might not realize that they might risk potential removal from the institution if the necessary criteria continues to be missed.

Negatively, the letter is not written to show students that the college is willing to help ease their struggle. The letter does include a paragraph which informs students to contact the Academic Planning and Advising Office if they “can help in any way as [they] work out strategies for improving [their] academic performance.” This statement could be reassuring to students, but, it could be swallowed up by other information due to its delayed placement. Placing this statement higher in the letter could be reassuring for students. It is important for students to realize that they are not alone in their academic situation. Through the recommendation of students and faculty members, Dean Easton has realized that students need to be made aware of the resources available to them while clarifying that they are on academic probation.

As Dean Easton has stated, the way Geneseo phrased their message “might lead students to think that they cannot go on with their education.” As visible in the letter, the word “fail” is used and could be viewed as rough by some students. ‌The letters harsh language could lead to doubts throughout their entire life. During the discussion, several students recommended that the tone of voice used throughout the letter needs to be changed. By doing this, the message of the letter would become less threatening. Another recommendation is to include the resources that might help students reach their academic potential. By utilizing these helpful resources, students could avoid being placed on academic probation again or possibly being removed from the college.

As Dean Easton stated, “students might be set back academically because of their outside life.” Several students made her aware that the college must be caring towards their outside responsibilities, which might include illness or family situations. I believe that students must be told that the college understands their home life because it could lead them to feel less intimidated by administration. Students might be less inclined to drop out if the college shows compassion towards the student’s situation.

Many students may not know what their outlook should be once being placed on academic probation. Although it may be hard to think positively in such a situation, Dean Easton made it clear that‌ students “wouldn’t be admitted to the college if we didn’t think [they] could succeed.” She realizes that students may have hit a bump in the road, but the opportunity to improve is possible if they present the effort. One place that might offer insight on dealing with academic probation is Geneseo’s GLOBE. The integrative inquiry learning outcome challenges students to “ask meaningful questions connecting personal experiences to academic study.” I found this point to be important because it asks students to connect their personal life to their academics. These two aspects are often times separated, but they have a significant influence on each other. When dealing with academic probation, it is important for students to think about how their home life could be causing their academics to fall behind. The GLOBE specifies this concept, but the probation letter should as well. It is important for students on academic probation to realize that their personal life could be affecting their academics. Reflecting on what it is that resulted in academic probation can allow for students to make the necessary changes to transform their academic standing.

The letter’s point is to make the expectations of the college clear, ensure students know how to meet them, and make sure they know what will happen if they miss them. This same concept is visible in the relationship of T’Gatoi and Gan in Bloodchild by Octavia Butler. Students should follow the direction of authority for things to run smoothly and for students to avoid consequences. This concept is relevant for college and the story. Gan states that “it was a little frightening to know that only she stood between us and that desperation that could so easily swallow us.” This quote signifies that Gan is under the domination of T’Gatoi, which is scary because it implements that she controls him. This same concept is visible in college. The academic leaders of the university have the power to decide if you can stay enrolled in the college solely based off your academic standing, a scary reality. As‌ said, it is important for students to follow the authority of the college, but it is also important to create academic partnerships. Students and faculty can form a strong tie by considering each other’s side and working to find a common ground.

Knowing that Dean Easton is willing to listen to the insight of students is reassuring. It shows that she is willing to create academic partnerships with the student population. The goal of the letter is to tell the student that they are on academic probation, while making it known that the college is willing to help them to improve their academic standing. By creating partnerships between students on academic probation and college faculty, I believe it is possible for student’s grades to improve.

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