Student Organization Advisers

ISOs are required to have an adviser who is an employee of the University and preferably one who holds a personal interest or professional expertise that relates to the purpose of the organization.  This requirement serves to promote student/staff/faculty interactions and allows faculty and staff to stay connected to students’ extracurricular lives. ISOs should consult regularly with advisers regarding organizational issues and activities.
Simply having an adviser sign the annual agreement to serve as your adviser does not harness the contributions the adviser might offer the organization. Student organizations should select advisers who will help meet organizational goals and provide guidance along the way.

Each year, student organizations and advisers should have a conversation about shared expectations. Both advisers and student organizations should ensure that they are well matched for one another and if not, to find a more appropriate fit. Organizations may select new advisers at any time and should notify the Dean of Students Office of such changes.

Questions for organizations and advisers to consider:

  1. How much involvement is expected or needed?
  2. How often does the organization meet and is the adviser expected to be present?
  3. How many major activities does the organization execute each year?
  4. How experienced are the officers of the organization?
  5. What are some ways that your organization could use the advice of an adviser? Is there someone at the University who has particular interest or experience in this area?
  6. What skills does the adviser bring the organization? How do these skills match those of your organization?
  7. Are there areas in which the organization needs specific assistance from the adviser and/or are there areas that are hands-off for the adviser?
  8. If the adviser has concerns about activities of the organization, how should the adviser present constructive feedback to the organization?

Expectations for Organizations and Advisers

Student organizations should be sensitive and limit expectations placed on advisers; however, at the same time, it is perfectly acceptable (and encouraged) to involve advisers in activities.
Sample expectations:

  1. Give notices of meetings to advisers and try to include and invite their participation on a mutually agreed upon level of involvement.
  2. Develop relationship with officers to help communication flow easily and establish a base from which to work together.
  3. Send invitations to events to keep advisers informed. Give enough advance notice to allow advisers to plan to attend.
  4. Consult on problems since an adviser’s experience and knowledge could be invaluable in helping to solve issues productively and quickly.
  5. Provide advisers with copies of minutes and other documents produced by the organization (e.g. minutes, agendas, etc.)

Adviser Functions and Responsibilities

The functions of faculty, graduate and staff advisers or graduate trustees of recognized student organization are two-fold:

  • They endeavor to make a positive contribution to the healthy growth and functioning of an undergraduate organization by giving constructive advice and aid of various kinds
  • They can help prevent or cure undesirable situations that may develop

The nature and importance of their responsibility will vary with the nature and past history of the specific organization. For example, advising a prominent publication will differ from advising a more esoteric activity with few financial affairs and less visibility. But in any case, the faculty, staff, graduate adviser or trustees should act in accordance with the basic policy of Harvard College. Their role shall be purely advisory unless some special crisis arises requiring drastic intervention. In any such case, advisers and organization leaders should consult with Dean Miller.

Travel Registration

Adviser should encourage student organizations that travel to register the trip prior to departure.  This provides student travelers coverage under Harvard’s Travel Assist insurance policy for international travel, and provides the College with the necessary information should emergency evacuation or medical care be needed. The adviser is not expected to travel with the student organization, but would also be covered under this insurance policy should they decide to join the organization.

Financial Responsibilities

Faculty, staff, graduate advisers or trustees have no legal responsibility for undergraduate organization debts. However, debts incurred by undergraduates should always be a matter of concern to advisers or trustees since their debts reflect on the good name of the organization and ultimately of Harvard College.

Adviser Agreement

Advisers and trustees should be familiar with the regulations for undergraduate organizations, which are available on this website and in the Handbook for Students.

Organizations must submit the Adviser Form signed by each adviser stating that the adviser has read this statement and agrees to serve the organization in this capacity. The form with original signatures must be filed with the Office of Student Life each year during Annual Registration at the start of the fall term.