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Members discuss improving peer advocacy

Kathleen McDonnell | Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Members of the Council of Representatives (COR) addressed the peer advocacy program as well as a new group created to brainstorm ways to help with the global health crisis during the group’s meeting Tuesday night in LaFortune.

Last year’s Judicial Council president made strides toward reviving and reforming the Council’s peer advocacy program, student body president Lizzi Shappell said, and this year’s president Liz Kozlow asked COR for ideas on how to make the program more effective.

Peer advocacy is one of two divisions of the Judicial Council that is “intended to help students facing the disciplinary process,” Kozlow said.

The students are “not lawyers exactly, for obvious reasons, but the peer advocates are the closest you’ll get on this campus for dealing with the Office of Residence Life and Housing (ORLH),” she added.

The main objective of the peer advocacy program, which is currently made up of 11 advocates, is to aid students through the ORLH’s proceedings. Since 75 percent of ORLH cases are handled in personal meetings, and peer advocates are only allowed to sit in on hearings, the advocates’ focus is often on preparing students for the disciplinary process, Kozlow said.

“Our advice can be things like clearing out Facebook accounts and clearing pictures from the Internet,” Kozlow said.

Peer advocates also inform students of the typical procedure for disciplinary meetings.

COR brainstormed ideas to increase student use of the program. Sophomore class vice president Bob Reich suggested having a peer advocacy representative from each dorm, as students may feel more comfortable if they have a personal connection with the advocate.

The council members also contemplated using a new advertisement strategy. Last year’s poster, “At odds with DuLac?” confused students who do not always associate DuLac violations with being sent to ORLH, according to Kozlow.

COR also briefly discussed the ad-hoc student group that formed in the wake of the Global Health Crisis Academic Forum. Both Student Union Board president Pat Vassel and Shappell have attended meetings of the group of students who felt inspired by the forum.

“There is this desire to do something, but the group is not exactly sure what,” Vassel said.

Shappell said students will have the opportunity to be involved with the Millennium Fund Notre Dame participates in, but not for another semester, as faculty and administrators are still formulating the project. The new group, however, is looking to act quickly.

“People feel like they need to do something now,” she said, “Let’s not lose momentum.”

The group is still in formulation, and will continue to brainstorm in the upcoming weeks, Kozlow said.