‘Judicial consultants’ offer student counsel
By Amanda Young, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 28, 2012
With new College alcohol and hazing policies threatening to increase instances of judicial action against students and student organizations this year, students are becoming more aware of the College’s judicial process, even looking into hiring outside consultants to help with the process in the event of a hearing. While the College permits students accused of misconduct to pay for advice on the disciplinary process from outside attorneys or consultants, the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Office provides students with numerous resources to prepare for Committee on Standards and Organizational Adjudication Committee hearings, Director of Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Nathan Miller said.
Private consulting firms, such as College Judicial Consultants, offer their services to students undergoing disciplinary action at universities across the country, according to College Judicial Consultants founder and president Dave Kennedy.
Kennedy started College Judicial Consultants in January in response to his experience as chief judicial officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. University judicial offices often prioritize their universities over accused students, he said.
“What I noticed was not just with me, but across the country, the obligation of the discipline office is to the institution,” he said.
Students accused of misconduct at the College have access to resources about the disciplinary process provided by the UJAO, which functions as a facilitator and has no role in administering sanctions for serious misconduct, according to Miller. Once the UJAO receives information about a potential violation of the College’s Standards of Conduct, it notifies students and provides them with a package of allegation materials, including information about students’ rights and responsibilities. All accused students receive an advising manual that provides an overview of the process and provides information for students. The UJAO also connects students with appropriate assistance, including undergraduate deans, counseling services at Dick’s House, faculty members and administrators, according to Miller.
Students are allowed to select an advisor who must be a current member of the Dartmouth community to provide guidance throughout the disciplinary process, according to Miller. Students typically choose their undergraduate deans because of their knowledge of the process, and the UJAO assists unfamiliar advisors to ensure that students receive accurate information, Miller said.
“What we try to do is connect them with people that are familiar with the process so they can get the best advice and guidance,” he said.
Students can also have a non-speaking observer, often a close friend, present during the hearing for comfort, according to Miller.
While the advising resources provided to the accused are often sufficient, students are sometimes unable to advocate for themselves freely because they are nervous, lack experience or find the disciplinary system foreign, Kennedy said.
“If a student isn’t ready to participate properly, it does not matter how fair the process is — the outcome is not likely to be satisfactory,” he said.
Since forming, College Judicial Consultants has assisted both individual students and Greek organizations with issues such as plagiarism, harassment and drug and alcohol non-compliance, Kennedy said. College Judicial Consultants’ clientele consists mostly of students attending well-regarded institutions, although no Dartmouth students have used their resources, according to Kennedy.
College Judicial Consultants will research the client’s institution and disciplinary system prior to offering advice, Kennedy said.
The company’s fees for consultation services range from $100 for an initial pre-meeting consultation to $500 for a full consultation package, which includes 24-hour access, a pre-meeting consultation, response preparation and revision, hearing preparation, appeals preparation and transition planning, according to the organization’s website. Clients can also pay anywhere from $200 to over $1,000 extra for an individual meeting with a consultant or for their attendance at a hearing.
Jessica Womack ’14, a student representative on the COS, said that the UJAO provides both the accuser and the accused with sufficient resources. “I think it’s a process that is kind of nebulous until you get to the point where you would have to encounter it or go through it,” she said. “At that point, they’re really accommodating and forthcoming with all the information.”
Miller said that students are free to seek outside resources for their cases if they feel it is necessary.
“We don’t initiate that conversation past our internal resources with the undergraduate deans and parents in terms of notification that a student has an issue going, but we do encourage them to talk to anyone that they would like to about this incident,” Miller said.
Most students with pending criminal charges and some who are only facing College disciplinary hearings consult an attorney, according to Miller.
Miller said that students can seek advice from outside consultants if they so choose, but he encourages them to make sure they receive accurate information.
“If they’re paying for those services, I would encourage a student to ensure that person they are paying for is familiar with our process,” he said.
Womack said she does not believe it is necessary for students reporting to the OAC or COS to seek outside help from consultants.
“I can’t imagine it would be any different or any more helpful than having an academic advocate who knows Dartmouth’s intricacies,” she said.