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Advising Notes Guidelines

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The Advising Notes tool in SPIRE allows faculty and staff with Advisor access to maintain an
easy-to-use online record of advising notes for all students.

This tool will improve advising across campus by ensuring that advisors have accurate and more complete information on their advisees, even when students move between departments, schools, and/or colleges.

General guidelines for writing SPIRE Advising Notes

  • A good understanding of FERPA will serve advisors well in the note-taking process. There is information about FERPA, the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act, including a tutorial on the UMass Amherst IT website.  Download the FERPA tutorial from the Files box at the top right of the About FERPA Certification page.

    Self-reminder: Do I need to discuss FERPA regulations with my department/supervisor?

  • Keep notes as brief and succinct as possible while providing enough information to aid future interactions. Be as specific as possible about what you discussed and agreed upon between you and the student. Expectations are vital, and when clearly documented can help to sort out potential misunderstandings.

    Self-reminder: Will this note make sense to me and other readers in the future?

  • If a student raises a personal issue relevant to an advising matter, it may be appropriate to refer to such a matter as a private issue rather than providing specific/detailed information. When noting something of this nature, preface the remark with student confidentially reported… or student prefers to explain in-person the nature of this issue. Exclude your subjective judgments about a student.

    Self-reminder: Am I comfortable with this note being read aloud by my colleague or the student’s parents?

Specific guidelines for using SPIRE Advising Notes

  • The notes you write are not private – they become part of a student’s educational record and are protected by FERPA. Although students do not have instant access, they do have the right to inspect and review their education records – this includes the right to amend inaccurate or misleading information, to consent or not to disclosure of personally identifiable information, and to file a complaint against the institution.

  • The notes you write can be viewed by other faculty and staff with authorized Advisor access, and this access is the responsibility of the Registrar’s Office.

  • If you need to correct or add to a note after it has been entered, you may update it within three calendar days. After that, you must enter an additional note. You may then refer to the previous note and the correction and/or addition.

  • If you believe your note is too private to enter into SPIRE Advising Notes, enter a placeholder note that sums this up, then speak to the student Dean in your School/College. He or she may prefer that you enter a paper copy of your note to the student’s Dean’s File.

Adapted with permissions from Kathryn Carson of Seattle University,
and Indiana University SES Training & Support