SGA conduct adviser program to transition towards functioning as support system for students
As the fall semester of 2016 begins, the University of Massachusetts Student Government Association’s conduct adviser program will shift from solely providing students with advice to also functioning as a support network.
Conduct advisers are students who, after applying to and being accepted for the position, have been typically tasked with one of two jobs. They may provide advice for students who receive a disciplinary sanction from UMass after violating the Student Code of Conduct or the Residential Life Community Standards, or for students who wish to file a sanction against someone in the University.
“One thing about the conduct advisers is that there isn’t really a safety net for you, so many students find it difficult to continue at the University,” said Jiya Nair, the incoming SGA Attorney General and a sophomore majoring in political science and business management.
“The conduct process shouldn’t be something that discourages students from attending the University,” she said.
While conduct advisers would previously limit their time with students seeking their help to a short block of advice, Nair said that conduct advisers will now be trained to redirect students to other campus services.
The UMass Center for Women and Community will do training sessions with the incoming conduct advisers to inform them of how to best help students find the resources they need on campus.
Nair also said that conduct advisers will now be better equipped to deal with the trauma of the people seeing them, and not just with the cases at hand.
“If you feel like you have an issue that isn’t related to the conduct system but need advice, you can come in and they’ll redirect you,” she said.
Conduct review cases could be stressful on students academically, socially or financially, said Nair, and understanding these stresses would allow for conduct advisers to support UMass students’ mental health.
“One of the reasons we decided to change the process is the Attorney General’s Office’s attempt to move towards a more restorative justice policy on campus,” Nair said.
The SGA Attorney General’s Office will attempt to work more at rehabilitating students being sanctioned by helping them reconcile their actions, the impacts they have had on themselves and other people at UMass, according to Nair.
She differentiated this system from mediation, where two parties accept the impacts their actions have had on each other, by focusing on how restorative justice is dependent on students accepting their own actions and learning about their impacts.
Nair contrasted punitive justice, which she said focuses on making students pay for their actions, with restorative justice, which she said could help turn sanctions of students into a more educational experience.
Rebekah Kohls, a senior studying business management, is one of the students who will become a conduct adviser this fall. She said she was introduced to the position by her friend Evandro Tavares, the former SGA attorney general.
Kohls said that she and other conduct advisers are learning about on-campus organizations such as the CWC and the Center for Counseling and Psychological Help, and that conduct advisers will be able to give students seeking help better assistance.
“I think the end goal is to move UMass from a penal system to a holistic system,” she said. “I think having a system that’s more helpful to having them find a support system.”
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