Ethics in Academic Advising

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The following information is from Ethics in Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook, Gordon & Habley, 2000. A copy of the book is located in the office of the Director of Arts Academic Advising if you wish to read further on the topic.

You may be periodically confronted with ethical dilemmas in your practice. The dilemmas may involve scholastic achievement or admissions decisions…or quite different issues. They may be issues with which the advisor can wrestle alone, or they may require consultation with other individuals and other services. At the very least, you must rely on widely based knowledge of your own values and of our institution’s values. You must understand how to apply these values to a problem with no clear or correct answer and plunge in to look at many options.

Students and the institutions for which advisors work expect advisors to be honest, fair, loyal and committed to excellence and decency; to respect and care for others; to keep promises; to be principled and faithful; to be responsible citizens; and to be accountable to everyone they serve (Josephson, 1988). There is no better model for students than to see you acting in principled ways, solving problems and basing decisions on values. In this way, students can learn how to think and solve problems ethically as well.

While Canada is not as litigious as the United States, information gathered at the NACADA Ethical Legal Institute in February of 2006 indicates that, although we are insured for third party liability as agents of a university, our best protection is to do our jobs well and within our mandate. Do not attempt to diagnose a student’s condition or learning disability. Simply refer them to the appropriate office such as Student Counselling, Student Health or Access & Diversity. If a student is in crisis, it is appropriate to walk the student to either of these offices to ensure they are taken care of properly.

Take clear and concise notes for the student file, keeping in mind that your notes can be subpoenaed in cases of legal action. Notes that you maintain yourself, which are never used in consultation with colleagues or mentioned to the student, are not public domain and cannot be subpoenaed.

Treat students the way you would wish to be treated by a service provider. They are members of your community.