While the nature of the advisor / student organization relationship will vary based on the needs of groups, it is expected that you will take responsibility for keeping informed about the activities of your organization, making yourself accessible to the group, and for building relationships with the officers and members. While advisors are responsible for overseeing the organization and providing guidance for decision-making, you are not responsible for the actions or policies of student organizations.
The best way to begin building relationships and establishing specific advisor / organization expectations is to get to know the students you are advising and learn what they expect of you. Some questions to ask:
- How often does the group meet?
- What are the organization’s normal processes and procedures?
- What are the organization’s major plans for the semester?
- What issues / problems (if any) does the organization anticipate this year?
- How much involvement does the group desire or expect of the advisor?
- What is the responsibility of the organization to the advisor?
- What is the preferred method of communication for everyone?
- Is feedback from the advisor expected? When and how would the group like feedback?
- Should the advisor intervene if things get off track, in the event of a heated discussion, etc.?
- How can the advisor be more helpful to the group?
Advising Do’s & Don’ts
While it is impossible to predict every scenario and how you might react to it, there are general behaviors that help and hinder group functioning. We have identified a set of Do’s and Don’ts to implement and avoid as an advisor.
- Meet with your group’s leaders at least once per semester
- Discuss the nature of your involvement with the organization’s leaders
- Collaborate on a set of expectations and form a mutually agreed upon contract with the group
- Develop working relationships with the officers and members of your group
- Assist in group conflict resolution
- Allow students to make decisions, take charge of planning, and carry out events on their own
- Make yourself knowledgeable about SORC policies and procedures to serve as a resource person
- Expect to encounter student problems unrelated to the organization. Be familiar with resources offered by the University of Pittsburgh, and refer students to appropriate offices if necessary
- Empower your organization to be successful
- Support the academic success of students
- Read and understand the following university policies:
- Events Involving Minors
- Refer to the Guidelines for Events Involving Minors for specific policies that organizations must adhere to when planning events where minors will be present.
- Campus Security Authority
- As an advisor to a student club or organization, you have “significant responsibility for student and campus activities” under the Clery Act. Understand your responsibility as a Campus Security Authority to report crimes to the University of Pittsburgh.
- Student Organization Travel
- Review the advisor’s role in student organization travel and vehicle rental.
- Run the organization meetings, step in to solve problems, assume decision making power
- Sign something without reading and discussing it with the officers of your group
- Assume responsibility for the group’s decisions, outcomes, failures, or successes
- Assume that the group does not need your guidance and support
- Impose your personal values or beliefs on the group
- Miss meetings or events that you’ve committed to
- Expect the group’s goals, values, and personalities to remain the same year to year