Advocates to be retained at hearings

    University officials have given preliminary approval to revisions in UCSD’s Student Conduct Code that would allow non-attorney student advocates to represent students at judicial hearings.

    A previous version of the document that would have eliminated representation of all kinds was strongly denounced by the A.S. Council in an Oct. 8 resolution.

    “”In response to the concerns and recommendations of students, the proposed regulations have been revised to permit representation at hearings by a pool of trained student advocates,”” Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson wrote in an Oct. 20 letter to the A.S. Council and Graduate Student Association presidents.

    Under the revisions, students accused of misconduct can elect to be directly represented by a trained student advocate.

    “”I’m really glad we were able to get this done and that students are continuing to be represented in non-academic and academic trials,”” A.S. President Jeremy Paul Gallagher said.

    Representation was initially removed from the Student Conduct Code after a review by the UC Office of the General Counsel determined that the university cannot differentiate between attorney and non-attorney representation.

    To comply with this ruling, Director of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs Nicholas S. Aguilar eliminated non-attorney representation on the grounds that a ban on attorney representation had been in place for over three years.

    According to A.S. Commissioner of Student Advocacy Jeff Boyd, the new document avoids differentiating between attorneys and non-attorneys and relies on trained student advocates that are technically university officials when employed through the A.S. Student Advocacy Office.

    Aguilar, who was involved with receiving the Office of the General Council’s approval for the most recent version of the code, placed emphasis on the educational experience that judicial proceedings provide student advocates.

    “”I was able to convince the Office of the General Counsel that we could distinguish allowing a student advocate to represent students because [the advocates] were coming from a program that is a campus program that provides an important development experience for UCSD student advocates,”” Aguilar said. “”And that was consistent with the mission of the university and a sufficient distinction to justify limiting the representation to student advocates.””

    Another change in the code requires that student advocates receive training from the student conduct coordinator and the student legal services office before they can represent students at hearings.

    “”The rationale for that is, of course, to ensure that we have someone who has at least a minimum level of competency in representing the student at a formal hearing or, for that matter, at the informal process,”” Aguilar said.

    Boyd says that training will be “”similar to [Judicial] Board training, but it’s going to be focusing a lot more on [student advocates’] role in the formal hearing and informal resolution process.””

    In addition to allowing student advocates, the new code includes a statute of limitations that requires charges be brought within one year of an incident.

    The vice chancellor of student affairs has the power to make an exception to the statute of limitations if “”extenuating circumstances”” exist.

    “”We’ve had this system in place before … and we haven’t had any complaints. It worked well, it was educational,”” Boyd said in reference to student representation. “”Had we not intervened, we would have lost student representation, hands down.””

    Before taking effect, the new regulations must be approved by the vice chancellor of student affairs and the chancellor.

    “”Not many students care about [representation by advocates], but they care about it when it’s a service that they need,”” Boyd said. “”Hopefully, you’ll never need it but it’s nice to know that it’s there when the need arises.””

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