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Adviser Information

Student Organization Adviser Expectations:

At Vanderbilt, an organization must have a full-time, permanent faculty or staff adviser in order to be a registered organization. An adviser serves as a consultant and mentor to a student organization and assists in the growth and development of the group by providing direction through advice, understanding, and clarification. Advisers do many things for organizations including:

  • Clarify adviser roles to group members. If advisers and student leaders have a shared understanding of each other’s responsibilities, there should be few problems;
  • Act as an interpreter of University policies that govern registered student organizations;
  • Provide guidance in planning programs and events, and approve event registration forms;
  • Authorize spending by approving PCard purchasing and/or signing 1180s and check requests, or delegate signature authority to a secondary adviser (often another staff member or department secretary);
  • Obtain signature authority by filling out accounting paperwork;
  • Receive and reconcile monthly accounting reports (ledger sheets or electronic access to accounts) or delegate to student members or secondary adviser;
  • Encourage and assist the organization in setting annual organizational goals;
  • Encourage groups to review and update their constitution annually;
  • Inform officers about leadership development opportunities such as conferences, workshops, and scholarships;
  • Make themselves available to organization officers for consultation about their roles and programs
  • Encourage officers to maintain accurate records;
  • Attend meetings occasionally or frequently, depending on agreed-upon responsibilities;
  • Provide constructive feedback where appropriate and facilitate creativity and innovation for the organization;
  • Provide continuity from year to year in the face of frequent officer turnover;
  • NOT let personal goals interfere with or influence group decisions, activities, or goals;
  • Facilitate a learning experience for student leaders and members by enabling their success, or, when necessary, by illustrating that failure often teaches as much as success;
  • Act in a conscientious and caring manner to promote student growth;
  • Consult the Office of Student Organizations and Governance at studentorganizations@vanderbilt.edu or 615-322-2471 or for advice, guidance, and more information.

Liability Concerns

When a faculty or staff member accepts the position of adviser to a student organization, he or she also accepts responsibility for the actions and activities of the organization. An adviser acts on behalf of the University and is expected to exercise that responsibility reasonably, diligently, and in good faith. The type of liability or risk varies greatly depending on the type of organization being advised and the type of activities planned by that organization. Some suggestions to guide advisers follow.

  1. Advisers should anticipate risks which may arise out of any decision or situation. Regardless of what organization or activity is involved, there will always be an opportunity for something to happen that might create a liability for the University. However, if decisions are made in good faith and reasonable precautions are taken, the risk involved can be minimized.
  2. It is important to be aware of University policies and regulations as they affect student organizations. The Student Handbook is the student information manual and a source for many University rules and regulations. Advisers should be familiar with the Handbook, particularly those sections that apply to community life, student organizations, and guidelines for organizational activities. The Office of the Dean of Students and the staff of the Office of Student Organizations and Governance can also serve as resources for advisers and their student organizations.
  3. Advisers should act only within the scope of their authority. Advisers may make certain decisions or take certain actions within their stated responsibilities as advisers. For example, an adviser may approve purchases necessary for the day-to-day operation of an organization. However, advisers do not have the authority to contract on behalf of or to bind the University. Only the Dean of Students is authorized to sign contracts on behalf of student organizations. Please contact Annetta Pickett at annetta.pickett@vanderbilt.edu regarding any student organization contracts.

For more information about liability and risk management, advisers may contact the General Counsel’s office at 322-8331 or the Office of Risk Management at 936-0660.