Last spring, I took a graduate course in project management. The textbook talked about the role of the project sponsor, essentially the “cheerleader” for the project, and showed a clip art umbrella labeled project sponsor protecting the project team from rain. The more I looked at the picture, the more I thought it was a perfect symbol to represent my role as a student media adviser.
In many ways, an adviser does serve as an umbrella to “protect” students from harsh conditions. I advocate on behalf of my students to upper administration. I ensure we have insurance on our transmitter. I certify all our concert performers have university-approved contracts and our bills are paid on time. I file FCC ownership reports and place quarterly issues and programs lists in the public file. I have difficult conversations about how to fire staff who aren’t meeting expectations and, if asked, sit in the room during the actual termination to show my support. I help prioritize task lists and serve as institutional memory. Most of all, I’m there for whatever they need.
As I kept looking at that picture, though, I realized that a good adviser also knows when to close that umbrella. Keeping my students in the shade doesn’t allow them to grow. They book their own concert performers. They lead their own staff meetings. They select their own music and write their own news stories. They decide what design to put on a T-shirt and the DJ shift attendance policy. I am more than happy to talk over any decision and offer my advice, but ultimately they have the final say.
Sometimes my students make mistakes. They hire the wrong people who end up quitting mid-semester, they don’t promote an event far enough in advance and it has poor attendance, or they forget to turn on their guest’s microphone. And that’s okay. Sometimes I can see the mistake coming a mile away and just let it happen, because it’s okay to get rained on sometimes.