Student Judicial Advisors will be available starting mid-October to help students prepare for Judicial Board hearings.
The Student Judicial Advisors, to be led by Judicial Affairs Officer Regina Curran, will consist of about ten students trained in school policy and Judicial Board proceedings who will help students navigate the judicial process at St. Mary’s. Student Judicial Advisors will help students prepare statements, understand what kinds of information the Judicial Board is looking for and provide general support as an ally in the judicial process.
The advisors will not just be available to people facing charges, but for any member of the campus community involved in the campus judicial process, including members of staff and students filing complaints against another student or faculty member. The position was proposed last semester by sophomores John Hain and Justin Rattey who felt that students facing Judicial Board hearings were not adequately prepared for the process.
“We saw a problem: that people didn’t know their rights or proper procedures of J-board,” Rattey said. “For example, a lot of students aren’t aware that they can have a case-resolution meeting with the head of Judicial Affairs … where they can openly discuss their case and try to find a solution without the need to go to J-board. With a lot of cases where respondents admit that they are responsible (the judicial equivalent of guilty), students will often find lighter sanctions by taking this path.”
There has always been counsel available to respondents who ask for it, but until now, there has been no formalized group of advisors at the ready to provide that counsel.
According to Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Laura Bayless, “There has always been an opportunity for students who go through the judicial system to have an advisor who is a member of the campus community (usually a staff member). Some students approached me wanting to formalize the student judicial advisor part of that so we would have a group of specially trained students who are at the ready as opposed to what happens now where students either find their own or ask us to find an advisor for them.”
Students will still be able to seek out a faculty advisor for assistance. The Student Judicial Advisors will just be another more convenient option for students to take advantage of.
Both Bayless and Curran emphasize that the Student Judicial Advisors will not play the same role that a defense attorney would play in a traditional court setting. First, unlike in a court room, students have to speak for themselves. Student Judicial Advisors, or any other kind of advisors for that matter, do not have the authority to speak at the hearing, although they will have the opportunity to be there to support and advise their client.
This is because the Judicial Board process is designed to be educational, according to Dean Bayless. “The reason I think it’s important that these people are advisors and not defense attorneys is that at some point in life everybody is going to have to speak on their own behalf when they’re being accused of something, whether it’s by the police, a boss or a family member,” Bayless said. She also said the Student Judicial Advisors are not designed to get people off on charges, but to guide them through the process and help them to feel prepared, which will in turn make the hearings more productive.
“I don’t think that the Student Judicial advisors will necessarily change the outcomes in the judicial hearings,” says Curran. She says that, if anything, the program might affect the sanctions that students receive but probably not the responsible/not responsible verdict.
Applications for Student Judicial Advisors went out last week and the team will be operational in mid-October. It seems that the administration is optimistic that the addition of the Student Judicial Advisors will increase the number of students who seek advice. Both Bayless and Curran expressed hopes that if students come to their Judicial Board hearings more prepared, the result will be a smoother process for everyone involved. They also explained how important and exciting it is that these advisors will be students.
Bayless said, “It is really clear to me that students teach each other more than hardly anyone else can teach them. And that may not be true in a Physics class. But in terms of learning the human development side of it, students are both the ones who know the culture the best and they are able to give really effective messages to each other.”