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Roles of an Advisor

Each advisor perceives his/her relation to a Recognized Student Organization (RSO) differently. Some advisors play very active roles by attending meetings, working with student officers and assisting in program planning and development. Others maintain a more distant relationship to the organization. No matter your style, keeping some regular contact with the organization is needed. An advisor accepts responsibility for keeping informed about activities of the organization and for advising officers of the organization on the appropriateness and general merits of policies and activities. However, advisors are not responsible for the actions or policies of RSOs; students are solely responsible. Advisors should be both accessible and interested and should provide whatever counsel an organization or its members might seek.

Given the myriad of purposes, activities and objectives of various Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs), the role of the advisor will vary in some degree between organizations. As organizations vary in their expectations and needs, it is important that you, as an advisor, develop an understanding with the organization as to the nature of your involvement. The advisor and organization should agree on a set of expectations of one another from the onset and should write this list down as a contract between the organization and the advisor.

The different roles you may assume as advisor include: mentor, team builder, conflict mediator, reflective agent, educator, motivator and policy interpreter.

Many students will come to see their advisor as a mentor and the success of these relationships can last many years and be rewarding for both the student and the advisor. If the student is seeking an education and a career in your field, you may be asked to assist in his/her professional development. To be effective in this capacity, you will need a knowledge of their academic program and profession, a genuine interest in the personal and professional development of new professionals, and a willingness to connect students to a network of professionals. You may be approached to review resumes, to connect students with community resources or to be a sounding board for their ideas of what they want to accomplish in the field.

At times, students will seek out someone to assist with their personal development. In this capacity, a mentor will have a basic understanding of student needs and perspectives, a desire to challenge students intellectually and emotionally while providing support to meet the challenge and the ability to listen to students’ verbal and nonverbal communication. Students may want to talk to you about family or relationship issues, conflicts they are having with other students or to have conversations about their ideas and thoughts on different subjects.

When new officers are elected or new members join the RSO, you may need to take the initiative in turning the students from individuals with separate goals and expectations into a team. Team building is important because it enhances the relationships of the students between one another and the advisor. Positive relationships help the organization succeed and to work through conflicts and difficult times.

To accomplish the goal of creating an effective team, it is necessary to conduct a workshop (if you and the students have the time, a full-scale retreat encompassing team building and goal setting could be planned) to engage students in this process. As the advisor, you may consider working with the student officers to develop a plan and to have the students implement it. Training students in effective techniques for team building will keep students invested in the organization and give them the opportunity to learn what it takes to build a team.

Inevitably, students are going to join the RSO with different agendas, goals and ideas about how things should function and the direction they should be taking. When working with students who have come into conflict, if needed, meet with them and have them discuss their issues with each other. In many cases, remind them that they both want what is in the best interest of the organization. Ask them how they think they can work together, point out the organization’s mission and ask how their conduct is helping the organization achieve its mission.

Sometimes, one student may be causing problems with other students. In many cases, this student may not realize that his/her actions are causing a problem. In this case, speaking with the student individually could be helpful. Chances are that no one has met with the student previously and discussed how his/her attitudes are impacting other people and how those attitudes or actions can be changed to make everyone feel better. In many cases, the student will appreciate honest feedback.

One of the most essential components to learning in “out of classroom” activities is providing time for students to reflect on how and what they are doing. As an advisor, you will want your officers to talk to you about how they think they are performing, their strengths and their weaknesses. Give them the opportunity to discuss their thoughts on their performance. Then be honest with them. Let them know when you agree with their self-perceptions and in a tactful manner let them know when you disagree. Remember, any criticism you provide students should be constructive and you will want to provide concrete examples of actions the student took that seem to contradict their self-perceptions. When students discuss their weaknesses, ask them how they can improve those areas and how you can help them. Students usually have the answer to what they need; they just don’t like to ask for help. Remember to have students reflect on their successes and failures.

As an advisor, your role of educator will often come through the role modeling of behavior, guiding the student in reflection of their actions and being there to answer questions. One of the most difficult actions to take as an advisor is to do nothing, but sometimes this can be the most important action of all. Allow the students to make their decisions even if they do not agree with your ideas. Sometimes, students will succeed; other times, they may fail. The key is to return to the role of the reflective agent and give the students a safe place to reflect on their experiences.

As an advisor, you may have to motivate students to excel and to carry out their plans and achieve their goals. Some students are easily discouraged and at the first sign of difficulty they may want to quit. You will need to be their “cheerleader” to keep them excited about all of the potential successes they will experience. You can motivate students through the recognition of their efforts, appealing to their desire to create change and to connecting their experiences here at the university to the experiences they will have in the community.

Recognized Student Organizations operate under policies, procedures and rules. At times, students may not be aware of these policies and they will do things in an inappropriate manner. The more you know about these policies the better advising you can give to the students on their plans.

As an advisor you will assume numerous roles and all possible roles are not mentioned here. A key idea to remember is that you are an advisor and not the leader. You provide guidance, insight and perspective to students as they work on projects, but you should not be doing the work. Students will learn if they are engaged. Be careful of being challenged into doing the work for a student project. The students make the decisions, and they are accountable for those decisions, and for the successes and failures of their organizations.

Adapted from ACPA Advisor Manual as of 6.2009

Expectations may vary based on the type of Recognized Student Organization (RSO) and the advisor. RSO and advisor expectations may also vary from year to year and person to person. Advisors and student leaders should connect regularly to determine the appropriate expectations that apply.

  • Be available to the officers and/or members of the RSO for advising and required signing of documents. The advisor is expected to assist both the old and new leadership in this transition and provide historical continuity.
  • Ensure your organization properly registers newly-elected officers on Jacks Club Hub each year. We understand that many groups transition officers at different times throughout the academic year, however, every organization will be required to complete a re-registration when new officers are elected in order to maintain SDSU recognition for their organization and to continue receiving important information from the Office of Student Activities.
  • An advisor is expected to allow the duly elected student leadership to exercise primary decision-making authority with regard to organization goals, objectives and activities within the limitations of the expectations above.
  • Advisors are encouraged to meet with organization officers and members as determined by the organization’s constitution. In addition, advisors are expected to assist the organization in developing goals and planning projects or events and to make suggestions that will empower members of the organization to become better leaders.

As an advisor to a student club or organization, you have some responsibility for their safety and security. This means you are a Campus Security Authority (CSA). The following information describes responsibilities and the expectations of being a CSA.

  1. Immediately report crimes and/or misconduct
    1. Contact the University Police Department at 5117 immediately. Do not consider whether the observation was a crime or would be prosecuted; simply make a report to UPD and they will determine whether a crime took place and begin the investigation as needed.
  2. Expectations
    1. Clery crime reporting is complex. You are not expected to know all of the nuances of Clery geography, what “counts” and what doesn’t regarding the crime reporting requirements. For this reason, you are expected to report ALL crimes and/or related misconduct to your supervisor or UPD. Whether it is you or your supervisor, UPD must be advised of said crimes.Notice and training.
    2. This message serves as notice that you are a CSA.
    3. This message also serves to explain expectations and guidance for being a CSA. There will be no additional training required or provided unless you would like more specific information or assistance. If this is the case, please contact the Dean of Students at your convenience.

As an SDSU employee, you receive an email every September regarding SDSU’s Annual Security Report (ASR). All institutions of higher education that benefit from federal assistance (i.e. financial aid) are required to submit a Campus Crime Report every year by October 1. The data submitted in the current year pertains to the previous calendar year. Specifically, the report submitted on October 1, 2016 included data and practices from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015.

As defined on the US Department of Education Campus Security web page. 

“Campus security authority” is a Clery Act-specific term that encompasses four groups of individuals and organizations associated with an institution.

  • A campus police department or a campus security department of an institution. If your institution has a campus police or security department, all individuals who work for that department are campus security authorities. A security department can be as small as one person. (More about this in Chapter 5.)
  • Any individual or individuals who have responsibility for campus security but who do not constitute a campus police department or a campus security department (e.g., an individual who is responsible for monitoring the entrance into institutional property). Include individuals such as those who provide security at a campus parking kiosk, monitor access into a campus facility, act as event security, such as for sporting events or large, registered parties, or escort students around campus after dark (including other students).
  • Any individual or organization specified in an institution’s statement of campus security policy as an individual or organization to which students and employees should report criminal offenses. As mentioned in Chapter 1, your institution must publish a number of safety- and security-related policy statements. (These are discussed in Chapters 7 and 8.) If you direct the campus community to report criminal incidents to anyone or any organization in addition to police or security-related personnel, that individual or organization is a campus security authority.
  • An official of an institution who has significant responsibility for student and campus activities, including, but not limited to, student housing, student discipline and campus judicial proceedings. An official is defined as any person who has the authority and the duty to take action or respond to particular issues on behalf of the institution.

Because official responsibilities and job titles vary significantly on campuses, we are not providing a list of specific job titles. To determine specifically which individuals or organizations are campus security authorities for your institution, consider the function of that individual or office. Look for officials (i.e., not support staff) whose functions involve relationships with students. If someone has significant responsibility for student and campus activities, he or she is a campus security authority.

Examples of those who do NOT meet the criteria include:

  1. A faculty member who does not have any responsibility for student and campus activity beyond the classroom (i.e. a faculty member who never engages in student trips more than one night away from campus and NOT an advisor to a student group).
  2. Clerical or cafeteria staff.

Per the handbook, the criminal offenses for which we are required to disclose statistics are:

  1. Liquor law violations
  2. Drug -related violations
  3. Weapons possession
  4. Negligent manslaughter
  5. Non-negligent manslaughter - - include whether bias-related (hate) crime
  6. Murder - - include whether bias-related (hate) crime
  7. Arson - - include whether bias-related (hate) crime
  8. Burglary - - include whether bias-related (hate) crime
  9. Motor vehicle theft - - include whether bias-related (hate) crime
  10. Robbery - - include whether bias-related (hate) crime
  11. Sex offenses (forcible and non-forcible) - - include whether bias-related (hate) crime
  12. Sex offenses includes forcible fondling
  13. Aggravated assault - - include whether bias-related (hate) crime

Additionally, all hate crimes must be reported. Hate crimes are those in which the victim is intentionally selected because of the individual’s actual or perceived:

  1. Race
  2. Gender
  3. Religion
  4. National origin
  5. Sexual orientation
  6. Gender identity
  7. Ethnicity
  8. Disability

A crime among following is reported only if it is a bias-related (hate) crime:

  1. Larceny-theft
  2. Vandalism
  3. Intimidation
  4. Simple assault
  5. Damage, destruction or vandalism of property

Finally, all instances of the following must be reported:

  1. Domestic violence
  2. Dating violence
  3. Stalking

The preceding information is in regards to the types of crimes. The succeeding information will pertain to the location of the crime.

Clery Geography (from 2016 handbook, starting pg 2-2):

The first part of this definition states that, for Clery Act reporting purposes, your campus includes buildings and properties that meet all of the following criteria:

  • Your institution owns or controls them.
  • They are reasonably contiguous to one another.
  • They directly support or relate to the institution’s educational purposes.

Controlled by means that your institution (or an institution-associated entity as described below) directly or indirectly rents, leases or has some other type of written agreement (including an informal one, such as a letter or an e-mail) for use of a building or property, or a portion of a building or property. Even if there is no payment involved in the transaction, for Clery Act purposes, a written agreement for the use of space gives your institution control of that space for the time period specified in the agreement. For example, if your campus consists of leased space comprising the entire third floor of an office building, you are in control of the third floor. A reported crime that occurs on the third floor (rooms, hallway, restrooms), or in the lobby, stairwell or elevator that students must use to access the third floor, is considered to have occurred “on campus.” If the agreement gives your institution use of the parking lot or specific spaces in the lot, the parking lot or the specified section of the lot is also part of your on-campus geography. To emphasize: Your control extends as far as the space specified in your written agreement along with any area your students and employees have to use to access that space. So, if you lease the third floor of the building and a crime occurs on an elevator in the building during the period of time covered by your lease, you must include that crime in your Clery Act statistics.

Note that for the purposes of the Clery Act, if you have an institution-associated foundation, holding company, subsidiary, alumni association, athletic booster club, or any other institution-associated entity that owns or controls a building or property that is operated in support of, or in relation to, your institution’s educational purposes, your institution is considered to be in control of that building or property. State ownership of a building or property used in support of, or in relation to, the educational purposes of a state school also establishes institutional control of that building or property.

Reasonably contiguous refers to a building or property your institution owns or controls that’s in a location that you and your students consider to be, and treat as, part of your campus. An example might be a house two blocks from campus that’s owned by your institution and which is used as an art studio for your students. Generally speaking, it is reasonable to consider locations within one mile of your campus border to be reasonably contiguous with your campus. However, this determination must be made on a case by case

Included in the following sections are prior standards and the new “short-stay “away” trips” descriptions. These can be found on starting on page 2-25.

Considerations for Trips to Off-Campus Locations

Field trips: You are not required to include statistics for crimes that occur on field trips at locations your institution does not own or control. Overnight, school-sponsored trips: If your institution sponsors students on an overnight trip, for example to see a play and they rent motel rooms, you don’t have to include crimes that occur in those rooms in your Clery Act statistics because the motel rooms don’t meet the frequently-used-by-students criterion. Repeated use of a location for school-sponsored trips: If your institution sponsors students on an overnight trip every year and the students stay in the same hotel each year, you must include portions of the hotel in your noncampus geography. For example, students in the debate club take a trip to Washington, D.C. and stay at the same hotel every year. You must include in your statistics any crimes that occur in the rooms used by your students and any common areas used to access the rooms (lobby, elevators, etc.) for the times and dates specified in the rental agreement. Note that what matters here is repeated use of a location that is owned or controlled by the institution, not the number of days it is used or whether it is used by the same students or different students. Short-stay “away” trips: If your institution sponsors short-stay “away” trips of more than one night for its students, all locations used by students during the trip, controlled by the institution during the trip and used to support educational purposes should be treated as noncampus property. An example is a three-week marine biology study trip to Florida. Any classroom or housing space specified in the agreement between the institution and a third-party providing the space would be noncampus property. If your institution has entered into a written agreement with a third-party contractor to arrange housing and/or classroom space for a school-sponsored trip or study program (either domestic or foreign), it is assumed that the contractor is operating on behalf of the school as the school’s agent, putting the institution in control of this space.

The university will to contact all law enforcement organizations responsible for the geographies where any and all of the aforementioned trips occurred. This means when a class travels to New York City and stays in a hotel for three nights, the university will have to contact the city, county and state law enforcement officials for crimes reported in that specific area at the specific time of the trip. This also holds true for athletic travel where the students stay more than one night or if we utilize the same hotel on a recurring, even annual basis. In addition, it is the expectation that any university official report crimes to UPD for tracking purposes particularly if a student, employee, or volunteer is involved as a suspect or victim.

Thankfully, most of us will not have to manage the process pertaining to a reported crime. For those of us who do, it is important that we report accurately and quickly. Please be sure to report any crimes to the University Police Department and keep record of any crimes reported to you even if you report them to the University Police Department.

Study abroad programs: If your institution sends students to study abroad at a location or facility that you don’t own or control, you don’t have to include statistics for crimes that occur in those facilities. However, if your institution rents or leases space for your students in a hotel or student housing facility, you are in control of that space for the time period covered by your agreement. Host family situations do not normally qualify as noncampus locations unless your written agreement with the family gives your school some significant control over space in the family home.

However, if your institution (or a contracted third party) does not have an agreement for the space used, your institution is not in control of the space and you are not required to count it. For example, there are some situations, such as sports tournaments, for which the host institution makes all of the housing arrangements for visiting students. In these situations, the visiting institutions do not have a written agreement for the use of space and are not required to disclose crime statistics for the housing in which their students are located. However, the host institution would be responsible for disclosing crime statistics for the housing since they hold the agreement for the housing.