After its first semester, the Student Advocacy Office has developed a foundation to serve as a resource to help students navigate the disciplinary process, its directors said.

The SAO, a project developed by the Georgetown University Student Association’s executive branch, has been working to establish a successful partnership with the Office of Student Conduct since the initiative kicked off in early fall 2011.

Although all student meetings are confidential, SAO co-director Ace Factor (COL ’12) said that the majority of cases the office works with are Category A violations, the least serious and most common category of offense, which includes alcohol and noise violations. The directors declined to give a rough estimate of the number of students served.

The advocates have also helped students by answering questions about the Code of Student Conduct and acting as a resource for those who need help understanding the disciplinary system.

According to James Pickens (COL ’12), co-director of the SAO, the most recent meeting with the Disciplinary Review Committee, the university’s student disciplinary system, was focused on expanding the group’s presence on campus.

“We specifically discussed ways for Residence Life and Student Conduct to work together with the SAO to help students through the disciplinary process,” he said. “I believe we have been officially recognized by the university, both as [an offshoot] of the GUSA executive [branch] and as a legitimate part of campus life.”

The newly-created office received almost 60 applications at the beginning of the academic year from hopefuls wanting to become student advocates. Although only 18 applicants were selected, the enthusiasm was encouraging, according to Factor.

“We had more applicants than we needed. I think that’s a good thing. I think it shows that student rights on campus are something people care about,” he said.

The new advocates undergo a strict training process that requires meetings with the Office of Residential Life and Director of Student Conduct Judy Johnson. The process ensures that all advocates have a firm understanding of the disciplinary system and are adequately able to help students, Factor said.

Pickens and Factor have also been working on adding a Bill of Student Rights and Responsibilities to the university’s Code of Student Conduct.

Although Pickens and Factor are graduating this semester, they hope that the office will continue to provide for students in the future.

“One of our biggest goals is having it continue,” Factor said. “It really depends on another group of committed students to help continue that.”

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