ISO Advisor Roles and Responsibilities

ISOs are required to have an advisor 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 advisors regarding organizational issues and activities.

Utilize your advisor beyond simply having them sign the required advisor form to register your organization each year. This includes ongoing guidance and speaking with your organization’s advisor each year to plan expectations and goals for the organization as well as the organization-advisor relationship.

Both advisors 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 advisors at any time and should notify the Student Engagement Team of such changes.

Questions for organizations and advisors to consider:

• How much involvement is expected or needed?

• How often does the organization meet and is the advisor expected to be present?

• How many major activities does the organization execute each year?

• How experienced are the officers of the organization?

• What are some ways that your organization could use the advice of an advisor? Is there someone at the University who has particular interest or experience in this area?

• What skills does the advisor bring the organization? How do these skills match those of your organization?

• Are there areas in which the organization needs specific assistance from the advisor and/or are there areas that are hands-off for the advisor?

• If the advisor has concerns about the activities of the organization, how should the advisor present constructive feedback to the organization?

advisor Functions and Responsibilities

Student organization advisors should endeavor to make positive contributions to the growth and functioning of an organization both by giving advice and aid in a variety of situations, and possibly preventing or resolving difficulties that may develop.

Be clear with your potential advisor about the nature and importance of their responsibility, and that it may vary depending on the structure of your particular organization. For example, advising a prominent publication with robust financial responsibility differs from the role of advising a more esoteric activity with smaller membership on campus. advisors should always 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 which case both advisors and organization leaders should consult with Dean Alex Miller (

Travel Registration

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

Advisor Agreement

Advisors and trustees should be familiar with the regulations for undergraduate organizations, which are available in this resource and policy guide and in the Handbook for Students .

Organizations must submit the Advisor Form signed by each advisor stating that the advisor has read this statement and agrees to serve the organization in this capacity. The form can be found on TheHub and is part of annual registration each year. If you are changing your advisor mid-year, please email their name and email address to, and we will follow up with the required form. 

Expectations for Organizations and Advisors

Student organizations should be sensitive and limit expectations placed on advisors; however, at the same time, it is perfectly acceptable (and encouraged) to involve advisors in activities. Here are some ways you may want to consider collaborating with your advisor:

• Give notices of meetings to advisors and try to include and invite their participation on a mutually agreed upon level of involvement.

• Develop relationships with officers to help communication flow easily and establish a base from which to work together.

• Send invitations to events to keep advisors informed. Give enough advance notice to allow advisors to plan to attend.

• Consult on problems since an advisor’s experience and knowledge could be invaluable in helping to solve issues productively and quickly.

• Provide advisors with copies of minutes and other documents produced by the organization (e.g. minutes, agendas, etc.).