In academic affairs, a contractual relationship exists between the student and the institution. The basic provisions of the college catalog, recruiting brochures, various bulletins, and the student handbook become part of the contract. The institution sets forth certain requirements for passing courses and for successful completion of programs and subsequent graduation. If students fail to meet the required standards, they can be penalized through such action as dismissal, suspension, or failure to graduate on schedule; if the institution fails to respect its own regulations, then the student may seek judicial relief.
An institution may create certain contractual obligations through statements in its publications Advisors' obligations and responsibilities usually appear in an advisor's handbook and often in publications readily available to the student. An increasing emphasis on quality advising to enhance retention brings added responsibilities to the advisor. More and more advisors not only are expected to understand such things as scheduling and registration procedures and degree and program requirements, but also they may be expected to function as a referral service. Thus, if institutions promise such services fro their advising system, they should ensure that their advisors can deliver these services. Where an advisor did not, or could not, perform his or her contractual obligation, then possibly liability could be present. Thus, institutions should be conscious of an advisor's obligations which might be created by unequivocal statements regarding advisors' responsibilities.
Most institutions' catalogs state that the ultimate responsibility for knowing degree requirements rests with the student. This type of statement normally would protect advisors if they commit an advising error. Generally, the advisor is not going to be held personally liable for erroneous advising in the absence of gross negligence, irresponsible behavior, or arbitrary or capricious treatment of the student. Advisors should keep notes of their discussions with students during advising sessions. An accurate record of advising sessions (see Advisor Folder) would help solve any disputes over the content of previous advising and also serve as a legitimate protection against claims of erroneous advising.