Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Making use of judicial advisers

It’s a Friday, that weekly holiday which gives us all license to relax a bit and forget the pile of books on our desks.  Sam is excited: a friend from high school is coming to visit for the weekend, to hang out, see the dorm and meet his friends. That night, however, things go a little haywire. Sam’s friend brought a 30-rack of beer with him, and even though Sam doesn’t drink, he doesn’t want to begrudge his friend some fun. The noise picks up a bit and the RA on duty shows up. The next day, Sam receives a notice of charge, placing him on the hook for his friend’s alcohol.

Sam is understandably nervous. How can this be fair?  What should he do now?  Well, there is an option: the Student Government Association provides a service called the Judicial Adviser Program. Judicial Advisers are students who are extensively trained in the Student Code of Conduct and advise their peers throughout the conduct process. Every semester, the Judicial Advisers advise and advocate for anywhere from 200 to 500 students, attending initial judicial conferences as well as subsequent proceedings, like hearings and follow-up meetings, at the request of the student they are advising.

Sam’s Judicial Adviser will help clear up the confusion surrounding the charge, going over what the charge is, as well as explaining how the University’s conduct system works.  The Judicial Adviser will also help Sam prepare for his conference or hearing by going over the case in detail and preparing Sam on how best to present his side of the story. The SGA takes privacy very seriously, and all the information discussed during Judicial Adviser meetings is strictly confidential. Though Sam’s Judicial Adviser cannot speak at his hearing, he or she can attend and offer advice and support.

As the number of conduct cases remains consistently high, I believe it is important to have someone on your side. The SGA is determined to provide as much support as possible to students who find themselves on the receiving end of an often overzealous judicial process.

One might ask, “Are Judicial Advisers lawyers?”  No – if you do need a lawyer, the SGA provides Student Legal Services, which is located on the ninth floor of the Campus Center. However, Judicial Advisers know the process, they know the people involved and, most importantly, they are peers who understand and identify with students in ways that the University does not.

Judicial Advisers are not just for students living on campus, either. The University will find out about incidents that occur off campus, especially within the Five College area. Police reports, protective custody information, citations and statements from other students are taken when building potential charges. Judicial Advisers exist to serve all students, who feel intimidated by or unsure about the process.

Some criticize the service for lacking support for victims of students charged in the conduct process. Yet, like the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to legal counsel, the Code of Conduct guarantees the right to an advocate for students at their hearings (Chapter IV, Section E, Number 4).  The feelings of the victim are always considered – however, the preservation of legal, constitutional and civil rights is paramount in the concept of the Judicial Advisers.

Lastly, and quite importantly, there is no fee charged for usage of the Judicial Advisers’ services. As soon as you receive a notice of charge, you should feel free to contact the Judicial Adviser office, and someone will start with your case immediately. Students should not have to feel victimized by the University and its unique approach. I implore every student who finds themselves within the judicial process to seek out the assistance that we provide. It is difficult for individual students to stand up against the disciplinary administration and defend their ambiguous rights. For its part, the SGA wants to educate students about their rights, help them through the stressful process and work with the administration to reform this poorly perceived process.

Garrett Gowen is the vice president of the SGA. He can be reached at [email protected].

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