Ethical & Legal Guidelines

  1. From the moment the institution accepts the student's application and fees, there is a contractual relationship between the two. Advisors should be very familiar with materials distributed college-wide to students. Equally important is the fact that statements made by an advisor create terms that the College must keep. Be sure that statements made or any advice given with regard to issues that may affect a student's financial aid or graduation qualifications are accurate. Double check: refer to the catalog; call the Registrar or Financial Aid Officer; or check with the Department Chair or Associate/Assistant Deans.
  2. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (The Buckley Amendment) provides students with access to information contained in their advising file. It also ensures that only school officials with a legitimate, educational need to know may see a student's file. The student's written consent must be obtained before anyone other than school personnel involved with developing the student's educational plan may be given access to the file. For further information regarding FERPA and college personnel, please go to FERPA regulations.
  3. Advisors can be accused of either negligence or defamation: If an advisor gives a student misinformation that results, for instance, in the student having to forfeit financial aid or take an extra course to complete graduation requirements, the advisor could be charged with negligence. If an advisor makes a malicious statement that keeps a student from securing a job or entering a program, the advisor could be accused of defamation. Of course, the student would be expected to prove the charge, either in writing or with a witness. You can protect yourself by knowing the university policies, double checking with the proper authority when exceptions are considered, and keeping notes that confirm conversations that deal with topics that may affect a student's financial aid and/or graduation. If the charge were proven, the university on behalf of the advisor, would have to pay damages to the student.
  4. Use common sense: Double Check, Document, and Refer.

Source: Hudson Valley Community College. (2007). Academic Advising Manual. Retrieved 5/4/2010

Related topics:

Professional Aspects of Advising

A professional is a person who has an understanding of his or her profession sufficient to be self-monitoring. (These principles apply, as well, to every academic discipline.)  One outgrowth of this self-monitoring is that professionals have thought through ethical issues, principles and practices, including the following: 

  1. You understand the limits of your expertise.
  2. You acknowledge what you do not know.
  3. You take the initiative to seek consultation whenever there is a question.
  4. You make referrals when necessary.
  5. You are a continuous learner.
  6. You avoid dual relationships.

Ethical Aspects of Advising

Four Ethical Ideals of Advising

  1. Beneficence (doing good). This means bringing about the most benefit and the least harm that one possibly can.
  2. Justice (or fairness). Treat all individuals equally, granting no one rights or privileges that are not granted to all.
  3. Respect for persons. Treat individuals as ends in themselves, never merely as means to your own ends.
  4. Fidelity. Live up to commitments that you have made, whether explicitly or implicitly.

Ethical Principles of Advising

  1. Maximize educational benefit to the advisee.
  2. Treat all students equitably; don’t play favorites or create special privileges.
  3. Enhance the advisee’s ability to make decisions.
  4. Tell the advisee the truth about policies and procedures. Tell others the truth as well. But respect the confidentiality of advisee interactions.
  5. Advocate for the advisee with other offices when warranted.
  6. Support the educational philosophy and policies of the institution.
  7. Maintain the credibility of the advising program.
  8. Accord colleagues appropriate professional courtesy and respect.

Minimum Standards of Conduct

  1. Do not exploit your unequal relationship with the advisee.
  2. Be available to your advisees. Keep office hours and keep appointments. Be on time.
  3. Know the information that you need in order to give useful advice.
  4. Meet deadlines.
  5. Do not discriminate against students.
  6. Do not limit advising to the quick signature.
  7. Do not malign colleagues.

Source: Noel-Levitz, Academic Advising for Student Success and Retention