Ethical Principles for Advising

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Undeclared and Deciding Students

There will be students who enter CSE as an undeclared major, switch to undeclared status or who are uncertain about the major they have chosen and are really still in a process of deciding. Advisors should be knowledgeable about the issues and concerns of students who still deciding upon a major.

Tips for Advising Undeclared or "Deciding" Students

  1. Seek the best possible education for the advisee.
    This is a utilitarian principle. In an educational setting, the good that we hope to maximize is education and its attendant benefits. It is not always easy to judge what will be the best education; our obligation is to do our best with the information available. This will benefit students, people with whom they will later have contact and society as a whole.
  2. Treat students equitably; do not play favorites or create special privileges.
    Treating students equitably does not mean treating them all the same (e.g., advising them all to have the same major). Differences in students' needs require us to spend more time with one than with another and to advise one more intrusively than another. But the fact that we might like one student more or that we might share another's values would not justify differential treatment. This principle clearly follows from the ideal of justice.
  3. Enhance the advisee's ability to make decisions.
    This is a key principle of developmental academic advising, so its presence here is welcome. As we all know, we cannot accomplish this goal without permitting the advisee to make decisions. This principle is derived both from utility because it benefits the student and others in the long run and from respect for persons because it supports and develops individual autonomy.
  4. Advocate for the advisee with other offices.
    Students will not get all the services they might from the college without a little help. This principle comes from fidelity because it is an implicit part of the commitment one makes by becoming an advisor. There are limitations on this principle, imposed by utility, for advocating too hard can reduce one's future effectiveness.
  5. Tell the advisee the truth about college policies and procedures, and tell others (e.g., faculty, staff and administrators) the truth as well, but respect the confidentiality of interactions with the advisee.
    As in the case of truth-telling, also includes privacy. Additionally it comes from fidelity, for confidentiality is part of the implicit commitment one makes to an advisee.
  6. Support the institution's educational philosophy and its policies.
    We need to make special note of this principle because it may not come naturally to advisors who think for themselves and have their own educational philosophies, but it comes from fidelity because it is another commitment that is built into the moral contract one makes when accepting an advising position. Note that this principle does not preclude arguing against policies in appropriate forums.
  7. Maintain the credibility of the advising program.
    All concerned must perceive the program as giving advice that (a) is coherent, (b) is consistent with college policy, and (c) holds up when questioned. This is derived both from utility, because the program's effectiveness depends partly on its credibility, and from fidelity, because the advisor makes this commitment upon taking the position.
  8. Accord colleagues appropriate professional courtesy and respect.
    This is not only about being polite to people; it is also a prohibition against encouraging students to believe negative things about the competence or character of colleagues. Opportunities to observe or violate this duty arise when a student asks which instructor to take a course from or asks for confirmation of something that "they" are saying against a particular individual. This principle is based on utility because an institution where such a rule is not followed loses effectiveness and because a student's inclination to gossip and jump to hasty conclusions is unduly reinforced, with long-term consequences.
    • Review the information in the students' original applications for admission concerning interests and co-curricular or extracurricular activities, as well as information in the students' application essays and/or letters of recommendation, where available. Such information often provide clues regarding potential majors that the student may find rewarding.
    • Assist students with exploring their interests, skills, and values, help them learn about academic programs at the College, and develop a plan for exploration.
    • Apply knowledge of teaching, advising, learning, and human development to encourage educational experiences that lead to intellectual and personal growth.
    • Assist students in the development of meaningful educational plans that are compatible with students' life goals.
    • Discuss the results of the students' Focus 2 Career assessment offered through Career Services. If the student has not completed this assessment, help the student set up an appointment with Career Services in order to do so.