The practice of having all regular members of the faculty act as 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. Faculty advisors retain the small group of students assigned to them at this time until students declare their majors (most often at the end of their second year).
Although sole 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, and not necessarily that the choices have full support.
Fall-semester enrollment for returning students occurs in the spring, usually in April, and for entering students during Orientation. 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 faculty advisors.
The most important points in the advising process come with the enrollment of entering students and the enrollment of sophomores who have selected a major. At both of these points, students should plan a course of study in order to meet: 1) collegiate requirements, primarily those concerned with diversification of courses across the various divisions and departments, and 2) departmental requirements, especially as they involve the proper sequence of required courses and courses with 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. Generally it is during this period that students meet the collegiate requirements of a full unit of credit in four departments across the four academic divisions, as well as satisfy 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 students and their faculty advisors of concerns.
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 faculty 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 faculty advisors about advisees' grades, particularly reports of deficient work in a course whenever that becomes apparent.
Faculty advisors 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 of Students' office of excused absences tied to physical health. In order to be well-informed about the lives of advisees, faculty advisors often seek the assistance, when appropriate, of upperclass counselors, course instructors, athletic coaches, the Deans, the Provost’s Office, Housing and Residential Life, and the Health and Counseling Center.
In addition, faculty 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 faculty advisors to support students charged with academic infractions.
The faculty has provided that a student may petition for an exception to an academic regulation under extenuating circumstances. Faculty advisors play an important part in the petition process. Petitions of relief from academic regulations generally come under the review of the Petitions Subcommittee for the Committee on Academic Standards. Because faculty advisors often know students better than their instructors, the Petitions Subcommittee takes the recommendation of faculty advisors especially seriously. When a petition is denied, the petitioner may appeal the decision to the full Committee on Academic Standards. Such appeals are rarely granted without the strong support of the student's faculty advisor.
In addition to acting as faculty advisors to individual students, many faculty members are asked to serve as advisors to student organizations such as fraternities, clubs, and publications. Since Student Activities 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. 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 information on each of their student advisees. Electronic advising folders are created when students enter Kenyon and contain information relevant to students' academic background, such as test scores and high school transcripts. The Registrar routinely uploads copies of correspondence relevant to the academic work of advisees. When a student changes faculty advisors for any reason, access to electronic folders shifts from the old advisor to the new advisor after the change becomes official with the Registrar.
While the electronic folders are an important archive of student information, 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. Persons having access to students' records are obligated to protect their confidentiality.
Although the role of the faculty 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, faculty 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. Faculty advisors frequently do act as references for their advisees, at 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 faculty advisor should consult with the relevant officer of the College concerning the appropriateness of supplying the information requested.