ASG hosts Dearden for FS updates

Despite the middle of the semester looming on the horizon, new beginnings dominated the discussion at the general assembly of Allegheny Student Government on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
The meeting began with a presentation from guest speaker Jennifer Dearden, associate provost and professor of music. The presentation, which detailed the findings and proposals of two task forces, indicated big changes on the horizon for Allegheny’s cornerstone “FS” program of first- and second-year seminars, as well as its associated academic advising structure.
“Both task forces used significant research both into current practices at other institutions, professional resources, past practices at Allegheny and some surveys,” Dearden said. “Both of them had Allegheny’s mission and our institutional learning outcomes at the forefront of their work. Our goals in both of these were to maintain support for students to achieve the institutional learning outcomes.”
The current institutional learning outcomes have been in place since January 2015 and focus on critical thinking, effective written and oral communication, interdisciplinary approaches and practical application of knowledge, according to Allegheny’s website.
Among the recommendations by both task forces was the “decoupling” of the FS program from academic advising and the institution of an “exploratory advisor” role for first-year students. Currently, first-year students’ FS professor is also assigned as their academic advisor until they declare a major.
If the recommendation is adopted, first-year students will be enrolled in a one-credit “advising lab” course in which, once a week, they will meet with their advisor or participate in group sessions with their class dean. The advising lab would be taken credit/no credit for both first-year semesters and will incur no overload fee for students.
“Taking advising out of FS 101 provides more space for the curriculum in the FS program,” Dearden said.
Combined with the recommendation from the FS task force to pare the FS sequence down from three courses — FS 101, FS 102 and FS 201 — to one first-year and one second-year seminar, Dearden emphasized that preserving as much space as possible in FS courses for the institutional learning outcomes was a top priority.
Other recommendations from the task forces included removing the disciplinary limitations from FS 201 courses and instead making them all interdisciplinary, much like how the FS 101 and 102 courses are currently structured, creating a formal institutional mission statement for academic advising and more clearly defining the allocation of responsibilities between academic advisors and class deans.
Dearden said that the committees’ recommendations, pending approval by faculty, intend to make the advising and FS experience better for first-year students while also adapting the curriculum to the college’s diminished faculty resources, as the current FS sequence is becoming “challenging” to staff.
ASG Senators expressed mixed feelings about the recommendations.
Senator Joe Leszczynski, ’25, challenged the new system’s applicability to students who declared their majors, and therefore switched advisors, as first-years.
“There are some details that we’re still working out, particularly with the Registrar’s office,” Dearden said, indicating that the proposed system will likely look different for transfer and “off-sequence” students. “But … we don’t want to make the system so complicated that nobody can figure it out.”
Kyrié Doniz, ’23, director of communication and press, questioned the longevity of the proposed program.
“I feel like there’s just a constant restructuring of the school and the way they want to advise students (and) help students and … it doesn’t last more than a year or two,” Doniz said.
Dearden explained that the reduction of the FS sequence from three courses to two is meant to ease the workload of faculty members and free up their time to participate in exploratory advising, for which they will be compensated separately and required to make a two-year commitment.
“Our staffing pressures are very, very real,” Dearden said.
Turning to cabinet reports, the assembly approved $2,426.50 from the general fund for use by the Pre-Health Club, Jazz and Dance Ensemble and Allegheny’s chapter of United States Institute for Theatre Technology.
Director of Student Affairs Amani Green, ’25, shared that the dining committee would meet with Dean for Student Experience Ian Binnington and Dean for Student Life Trae Yeckley on Wednesday, Feb. 15, to review the progress of their food insecurity survey and set goals for the committee’s future efforts.
The deadline for submitting petitions and candidacy platforms for the upcoming ASG presidential race passed before the general assembly. There are four tickets up for constituents’ consideration: Chief of Staff Ray Colabawalla, ’25, and Leszczynski; Manasvi Bantawa, ’24 and Kevin Murphy, ’24; Class of 2025 President Nicole Recio Bremer and Class of 2026 President Sam Ault; and Reece Smith, ’25.
Class of 2023 President Shira Haus updated the assembly on the planning of senior week, the celebratory week between finals and commencement, floating a preliminary request for $5,000-$8,000 more than the previously-allotted $4,800 budget. She also shared that students will likely be charged $25 each for admission to senior week, later clarifying that this would be a one-time purchase, not an individual charge for each event.
Senator Jasmin Meyer-Jaafari, ’23, added that the program for the week is now a “relatively-set schedule of events,” previewing a senior gala, bar crawl, late-night Kinz, champagne brunch and hiking trip, among other activities.
The other classes outlined their intentions for a busy semester as well, with the class of 2024 planning a career panel event co-hosted by the IDEAS Center and the class of 2025 organizing a soccer game.
Class of 2026 President Sam Ault put out a call for students to join the Gator Day planning committee.
“If you know someone who would be interested in (participating), we’re looking for about nine to 10 students to be involved in that process,” Ault said. “Please send them my way or to (Third- and Fourth-Year Class Dean) Jonathon May for more information.”
ASG President Veronica Green, ’23, announced that the ASG food pantry is restocked with donations from the staff advisory committee and Vice President for Institutional Advancement Matt Stinson. She then took time to acknowledge both the upcoming one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the recent shooting at Michigan State University.
“I know that it provides a lot of anxiety to college students because, typically, with us being so spread out on campus, stuff like this doesn’t happen a lot,” Green said. “Mine and a lot of other people’s thoughts and hopes lie with the people who are critically injured in the hospital, and I know that the Dean of Students’ office is working on updating our … emergency policies.”
The assembly’s final action of the evening was to vote to approve a proposed new club, Lift Up.
“(Lift Up) aims to create a more inclusive space for people who have been historically pushed out of strength-based sports to pursue that,” said Lift Up representative Milo Watson, ’26.
Watson outlined that Lift Up would engage in an equal mix of hands-on gym time and classroom learning about strength training, aiming to be accessible both to beginners and those who do not feel comfortable asking gym regulars for advice.
Lift Up was approved unanimously by the Senate. At their next general assembly on Tuesday, Feb. 21, ASG will vote on the club again, in accordance with its bylaws.
The meeting concluded at 8:34 p.m.