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Legal Issues Involved in Academic Advising

As faculty advisors, you should seek to understand the legal issues related to academic advising. Such an understanding will protect students’ rights as well as your own. Being familiar with the current legal parameters, you can maintain those policies and practices which respect the worth and dignity of each student. And by doing so, you can help create a better climate for respecting the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities of every member of our campus community and thereby reduce the chances for legal procedures. Educational advisor–professional, staff, or faculty–are in a critical position in dealing with students, and the success or failure of students’ education and growth is influenced greatly by the advising process. In fact, in today’s litigious atmosphere, the advising process is more critical than ever.

Academic advising occurs under the auspices of Academic Affairs. The courts have always hesitated to enter the academic arena and substitute their judgment for that of academicians. In doing so, the courts have recognized the academic freedom which protects academic decisions, including advising decisions. They have also recognized that their repeated presence in the academic community could possibly deteriorate the otherwise beneficial student/faculty relationship. Keeping this in mind, if academicians and professional staff do not abuse their discretion in dealing with students, they need not fear judicial intervention. However, the courts will intervene if evidence exists of arbitrary or negligent treatment of students or a denial of their protected rights. The increasing judicial sensitivity to students’ rights is therefore an important issue of which each member of our academic community should be aware. As academic advisors, you need to understand the major legal issues involved in the following four areas:
Contractual Relationship Between the Student and the Institution
Privacy of Student Records (FERPA)
Confidential Communication 
Academic Due Process