The Student Organization Advisor
At Vanderbilt, an organization must have a faculty or staff advisor in order to be a registered student organization. By accepting the position of advisor to a student organization, a faculty or staff member chooses to play a significant role in the development of students. An advisor serves as a consultant, mentor, role model, and educator to an organization. Furthermore, an advisor assists in the growth and development of the group by providing direction through advice, understanding, support, and challenge. An advisor’s role will include:
- Fostering an environment that promotes a sense of belonging, education of the whole student, and development of socially responsible leaders
- Helping students find a balance between their academics, personal needs, and co-curricular activities
- Clarifying advisor roles to group members, in order to have a shared understanding of responsibilities
- Acting as an interpreter of University policies that govern registered student organizations
- Providing guidance in planning programs and events
- Authorizing spending by signing 1180s, purchase orders, and check requests, or delegate signature authority to a secondary advisor (often another staff member or department secretary)
- Authorizing purchases by filling out accounting paperwork
- Reconciling monthly accounting reports (ledger sheets or electronic access to accounts) or delegate to student members or secondary advisor;
- Motivating the group in setting annual organizational goals
- Encouraging groups to review and update their Constitution annually
- Informing officers about leadership development opportunities such as conferences, workshops, and scholarships
- Guiding officers in the maintenance of accurate records and bookkeeping
- Attending meetings occasionally or frequently, depending on agreed-upon responsibilities
- Offering constructive feedback where appropriate and facilitate creativity and innovation for the organization;
- Affording continuity from year to year in the face of frequent officer turnover
- Facilitating 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
- Acting a conscientious and caring manner to promote student growth
- Consulting the Office of Student Organizations and Anchor Link for advice, guidance, and more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
When a faculty or staff member accepts the position of advisor to a student organization, he or she also accepts responsibility for the actions and activities of the organization. An advisor 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 advisors follow.
1. Advisors 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. Advisors should be familiar with the Handbook, particularly those sections that apply to community life, student organizations, and guidelines for organizational activities. The Student Organizations and Anchor Link staff can also serve as resources for advisors and their student organizations.
3. Advisors should act only within the scope of their authority. Advisors may make certain decisions or take certain actions within their stated responsibilities as advisors. For example, an advisor may approve purchases necessary for the day-to-day operation of an organization. However, advisors do not have the authority to contract on behalf of or to bind the University. Dean of Students is authorized to sign contracts.
For more information about liability and risk management, advisors may contact the General Counsel’s office at 615-322-8331 or the Office of Risk Management at 615-936-0660.