When students face disciplinary charges, they have to deal with dozens of bylaws and rules they might never have heard of before, but until recently there was no group devoted to helping them through the process.

This semester, however, a judicial advisory group has been founded to guide other students through their hearing.

Senior Danielle Beyer is the chief advisor of the group and one of the students who helped get it started. “Really what we’re there for is for students going through the judicial process, we’re their advisors,” Beyer said. “Basically we lay it out for them and say, ‘Choose’.”

The group works closely with the Dean of Students’ office. “Their primary role is to provide students with a network of other students who understand [the disciplinary system],”Associate Dean of Students in charge of discipline Matt Burns said.

Until the group was formed, Burns and his office were the only resource available for students who needed judicial advice, but students weren’t always comfortable going to a member of the administration. “Very often students don’t see me in the role of providing information,” he said. “And I am not in the best role of helping them prepare their case.”

So the Dean of Students’ office assembled several students interested in student government and helping their classmates.

Senior and recruitment chair Shari-Lynn Cuomo, for example, is a member of the Mock Trial Organization, but that’s not why she joined. “It’s related on one level, but not really,” she said. “I [got involved in the group] because I saw students going through the system and not knowing what was coming.”

Junior James Marra also joined because he wanted to help fix a problem with the current system. “It crossed through my mind freshman or sophomore year when I read through the bylaws and saw that students were entitled to counsel,” he said.

However, the group will only act as advisors. Instead of being advocates for the student, they will be more like impartial guides. “We’re not their advocates, we’re not their lawyers, we’re not responsible for any decisions they make,” Beyer said. “We basically facilitate it for everybody.”

To make it easier for the students they help, the group is committed to confidentiality. “Confidentiality is one of our biggest things,” Beyer said. “It’s extremely important that students can trust us.”

Due to that confidentiality policy, few details were available about what work they have done so far. “It has been an especially slow year for hearings so far,” Burns said. “We have had the opportunity to use an advisor once.”

In that case, the student was advised mainly by junior and publicity chair Preeyel Dalal. “I think it really helped him because he didn’t know too much about the process,” Dalal said. “[We told him] the little details, like you need to dress up, you need to have your opening and closing statements prepared.”

The group is still in its very early stages. For example, Marra is an officer in charge of evaluating performance. However, a title for his office has not yet been decided on.

“We’re a pilot program,” Beyer said. “That’s why it’s not in the student handbook, because it’s not a promised program.”

But she was confident that it would not be a temporary program. “There’s no reason for it to not work.”

In most cases, students facing disciplinary charges by UR get a choice of what kind of hearing they would like to have.

“Students usually are given an opportunity to indicate their preference of whether they would rather have a student board or a faculty board,” Burns said.

Levesque can be reached at clevesque@campustimes.org.



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