A new push by the Georgetown University Student Association aims to smooth communication and misunderstandings between the administration and students.

The Student Advocacy Office, an initiative headed by co-directors James Pickens (COL ’12) and Ace Factor (COL ’12), will offer free, confidential advice to students on a variety of issues related to student conduct, while also helping students who are in touch with the university because of Code of Student Conduct violations, honor code changes and other matters that affect campus life.

“Meeting with hall directors and administrators can be inherently intimidating and the dense code of conduct can be confusing,” Factor said. “SAO offers confidential advice in the hopes of providing students with foundational confidence heading into a serious, punitive meeting.”

GUSA plans to send an email to undergraduates later in the week advertising the opportunity to become a trained representative of the Student Advocacy Office.

Factor and Pickens, who are both members of the GUSA Executive Cabinet, have worked seriously on the program over the summer and expressed optimism regarding the application responses and pool.

“Really, we are looking for applicants with a real passion for student rights,” Pickens said. “The ideal applicant is the student who is excited about working with others in order to make things at Georgetown better.”

SAO advisers will be responsible for holding office hours in the GUSA office for two hours per week.

“The advisory process is a highly individualized process,” Factor said. “Each SAO advisor undergoes an in-depth training regimen, because each will have such a high degree of responsibility. In many cases, we’re dealing with students’ disciplinary futures. Our goal is to give good advice in good faith.”

Factor and Pickens agreed that since the program is so new, they will be forced to advise using hypothetical answers and general rules as opposed to past, empirical evidence. Factor explained, however, that the program has been working closely with hall directors and administrators, specifically Director of Student Conduct Judy Johnson, in an effort to outline circumstances that may arise this semester.

They have also met extensively with members of American University, which has a similar, very effective program.

Factor and Pickens emphasized the important role the program will play as a buffer between the administration and the student.

“Our role is to help students and the administration here at Georgetown collaborate to find appropriate, expedient solutions to the problems that may arise throughout the semester,” Factor said. “A larger breadth of information can only improve our disciplinary process.”

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