The practice of having all regular members of the faculty act as academic advisors goes back to the early years of the College. It is a very important activity, and one of the features of life at Kenyon that creates the special relationship between faculty and students, between coursework and other activities, that a residential college should foster.
The primary function of faculty advisors is to help guide students through the choices that curricular and program decisions entail. To do this well requires acting from two perspectives. Faculty advisors help students realize their personal and educational goals in an effective way, but they also interpret the curriculum to students and help maintain the curricular requirements established by the faculty.
Normally, faculty members first become advisors at the beginning of their second year of teaching at the College. All entering students are assigned a faculty advisor by the Dean for Academic Advising. Traditionally, the first collective activity of the College year is the annual meeting for faculty advisors, held several days before the arrival of the entering class of students. Faculty advisors retain the small group of students assigned them at this time until the students declare a major at the end of their second year.
Although primary responsibility for curricular choices remains with the student, students cannot enroll in courses or complete registration without the approval of their faculty advisors on the appropriate forms. Such approval indicates that the issues relevant to a particular enrollment have been discussed.
Fall-semester enrollment for returning students occurs in the spring, usually in April, and for entering students on the day before the beginning of fall-semester courses. Students enroll for spring semester courses in late October or early November as announced. There are always a few days of drop/add following each enrollment period for students to fine-tune their schedules. A final drop/add period is held during the first seven class days of each semester. These are the periods of most intense academic advising; however, there are opportunities in December and the early weeks of each semester when students may change their enrollment, with the consent of their academic advisors.
The most important points in the advising process come with the enrollment of entering students and that of sophomores who have selected a major. At both of these points, students should plan a two-year course of study in order to meet 1) collegiate requirements, primarily those concerned with distribution of courses in the various divisions and departments, and 2) departmental requirements, especially as they involve the proper sequence of required courses and courses entailing prerequisites.
Although it is often important to select courses during the first two years in light of an anticipated selection of a major department, the first two years should be treated as the best occasion for more general education. Normally it is during this period that students meet the collegiate requirements of a full unit of credit in four departments that are in the four academic divisions, as well as satisfying the quantitative reasoning and foreign language proficiency requirements. Both the Dean for Academic Advising and the Registrar monitor students' progress in meeting collegiate requirements and routinely inform their advisors.
Normally students select a major just prior to the enrollment period in the spring of their sophomore years. To do so, students must be accepted by the department. Advising students who wish to pursue the program of a particular department is the responsibility of the department chair, though frequently this is shared with other members of the department.
Students who wish to "double major" follow the same process and meet the same requirements for both departments as regular majors in those departments. Special programs, such as the Synoptic Major and concentrations, have special procedures and requirements that are specified in the Course of Study.
The participation of the academic advisors in the collegiate careers of their students is not limited to advising them for course enrollment. The general assumption of the College is that the life of students outside the classroom is relevant to their academic achievement and to the welfare of the College itself. For example, the Registrar routinely informs advisors about advisees' grades, and the Dean for Academic Advising forwards to them reports of deficient work in a course whenever that becomes apparent.
They also receive information from the various offices of the College about aspects of students' lives that might affect their academic work. For example, they are routinely informed by the Dean's office of medical or personal problems. In order to be well informed about the lives of advisees, advisors often seek the assistance, when appropriate, of colleagues, coaches, resident advisors, upperclass counselors, the deans, the Health and Counseling Center, and the Career Development Center.
In addition, advisors are routinely asked to make evaluations of the suitability of advisees' applications for participation in special programs, such as Off-Campus Study. College legislation also allows advisors to assist students charged with academic infractions such as plagiarism or cheating.
The faculty has provided that a student may petition to be exempted from any regulation governing the academic program. Advisors play an important part in the petition process. Because the advisors often know the students better than their instructors, the deans or committees being petitioned take the recommendation of advisors especially seriously. Petitions of relief from academic regulations are ultimately the responsibility of the Academic Standards Committee. Most such petitions are acted on by the Dean for Academic Support, acting in accordance with guidelines provided by the committee and in consultation with a subcommittee of the committee. When a petition is denied, the petitioner may appeal the decision to the full committee. Such appeals are rarely granted without the strong support of the student's advisor.
In addition to acting as academic advisors to individual students, many faculty members are asked to serve as advisors to student organizations such as fraternities, clubs, and publications. Since Campus Government requires many of these groups to have faculty advisors, it is necessary that individual faculty members accept a reasonable share of this work and take it seriously. The Provost and the deans are eager to help faculty members in this work. If interests and talents make an appropriate fit, collegiate service in this role can be a significant contribution to the life of the community while affording personal satisfaction.
The Dean for Academic Advising provides faculty advisors with folders for each of their student advisees. These student folders are created when students enter Kenyon and contain information relevant to the students' academic background, such as test scores and high-school transcripts. Faculty advisors are expected to keep these folders up to date by accumulating records of the students' academic work. The Registrar routinely sends copies of students' enrollment by semesters, grades, and any correspondence relevant to the academic work of advisees. When a student changes advisors for any reason, the advising folder is usually forwarded to a new advisor, upon request from the Dean for Academic Advising.
The advising folders are an important archive of students' academic work, but the Office of the Registrar is responsible for maintaining the academic records of students. Faculty members and administrative officers of the College have access to the Registrar's records and ordinarily do not need to consult the advisor's records. Student records are not removed from the Office of the Registrar. Persons having access to students' records are obligated to protect their confidentiality.
Although the role of the advisor is often a comprehensive and intimate one, it is not intended to invade the privacy and independence of students. Information about students' views, practices, beliefs, and political associations that professors and administrators acquire in the course of their work as instructors, advisors, and counselors is confidential. Protection against improper disclosure, particularly without the student's knowledge, is a serious professional obligation as well as a legal responsibility. Advisors frequently do act as references for their advisees, at the students' initiative. Also, judgments of ability and character may be provided under appropriate circumstances, such as when a student initiates and consents to an investigative or evaluative inquiry through application for government work or institutional admission. In cases of doubt, the advisor should consult with the relevant officer of the College concerning the appropriateness of supplying the information requested.