Albion College requires that all recognized student organizations have a faculty or staff advisor. By sharing knowledge about the College and personal experience, the advisor can assist the group in the conduct of its activities.
Obviously, the relationship between an advisor and an organization will vary, not only with each organization, but from time to time within an organization. Nevertheless, the general concerns/responsibilities of the advisor remain constant and encompass the following points:
- Advisor recognizes and supports participation in student organizations for its contribution to the educational and personal development of students.
- Advisor works with student organizations in an advising capacity and should not direct the organization’s programs or activities. However, advisors should be frank in offering suggestions, considerations, or ideas for the group’s discussion.
- Advisor stays well informed about the plans and activities of the group. The expectation is the advisor will attend the majority of meetings and activities of the group and will consult frequently with student officers.
- Advisor is aware of the goals and directions of the organization and helps the group evaluate its progress toward reaching these goals.
- Advisor provides continuity within the group and is familiar with the group’s history. The advisor should also be familiar with the constitution and by-laws of the organization and be prepared to assist with their interpretation.
- Advisor insures the group’s compliance with college policies and procedures. The advisor needs to be aware of the policies and procedures in the Albion College Student Handbook and information in this handbook. The advisor could be held responsible for the actions/behaviors of a student organization that violates established policies.
- Advisors should be aware of the general financial condition of the organization and encourage the keeping of good financial records.
- Advisor should monitor group functioning and encourage members to fully participate, to assume appropriate responsibilities for group activities, and to maintain a balance between academic activities and co-curricular commitments.
- Advisor assists in orienting new officers and assists in developing the leadership skills of members.
- Advisor should be prepared to deal with major problems or emergencies within the organization.
Advisors should consult with the Campus Programs and Organizations Staff about organizational problems, plans, or changes in organizational status when the advisor deems it appropriate.
Negotiating Advisor Role
In order for advisors to effectively fulfill their responsibilities, and for organization officers to maximize the valuable role that advisors can play, a working agreement must be reached between the advisor and officers. The general parameters of this agreement were suggested in the preceding paragraphs. The following five-step process is suggested as one means of negotiating the advisor-organization relationship.
Step 1: Initial Meeting
As soon as possible after election of new organizational officers, the advisor should meet with them to discuss the following:
- The organization’s purpose, goals and objectives.
- College expectations concerning students establishing priorities that emphasize the maintenance of high academic standards while being involved in organizations.
- College rules and policies, particularly with respect to open membership, hazing, sexual harassment, non-discrimination, alcohol, and financial accountability.
- Officer expectations of the advisor.
- The advisor’s past experience with student organizations and advisor style and expectations.
- Leadership strengths and weaknesses of the officers and ways the advisor may enhance and strengthen these skills.
Step 2: Negotiation Session
Within a week after the initial meeting, the advisor and officers should meet again to negotiate the specifics of their working relationship including:
- When and how the advisor will review the goals, initial project plans and annual budget.
- How the advisor will be kept informed of the organization’s activities (alternatives include advisor attending meetings, periodic scheduled meetings between advisor and officers, and written officer reports).
- The role of the advisor in planning, implementation and evaluation of specific projects.
- How the advisor may assist officers in developing leadership skills.
- The process for handling officer and advisor concerns.
- The mechanism for advisor evaluation of organizational effectiveness.
Step 3: Organization Meetings
Even if the advisor will not be attending organization meetings on a regular basis, the advisor should be invited to one of the first meetings so that he or she has an opportunity to meet the members and discuss his or her role.
Step 4: Carry Out Negotiated Roles
The advisor and officers share responsibility for ensuring that the arrangements negotiated in step 2 are carried out. Renegotiation may be necessary as the year progresses.
Step 5: Year End Wrap-Up
Shortly before the election of new officers, the advisor and current officers should meet to discuss:
- Group progress during the year
- The effectiveness of the negotiated relationship.
- Advisor recommendations for the officers' future involvements
- Officer recommendations for the advisor's future advising activities.