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Peer group offers help with ResLife

Amanda Gray | Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Comprised of students living in the residence halls and with no affiliation to the University’s administration, the Judicial Council’s Peer Advocacy Division has been working to improve the disciplinary process on campus, according to its officers.

“We’re a student-run organization that is not affiliat­­ed with the administration, but we work constructively with the Office of Residence Life and Housing (ResLife) to improve the disciplinary process,” senior Jean Namkung, Judicial Council vice president for peer advocacy, said.

The program, in existence since the 1970s, saw a record of 158 applicants for its 68 positions this year and will continue to help students through the disciplinary process, providing advice at key points, Namkung said.

“We’re composed of 68 trained student advocates that include several students who have personally been through the disciplinary process. We provide pre-hearing and post-hearing advice to students who are ­going through a disciplinary conference or an administrative hearing,” Namkung said. “Advocates are allowed to be present during ORLH administrative hearings, as well.”

Senior Jennifer Burke, a peer advocate with the program, said the program is a great way to help fellow classmates during the disciplinary process.

“I talk with students who have received a letter from Residence Life and Housing about what to expect when they go to their hearing. I can go over guidelines set in duLac about expected consequences and expectations with a student,” Burke said. “Also, I can attend a hearing with a student should they request it as moral support, although I am not allowed to speak on the student’s behalf.”

Students often come to peer advocates for advice on handling disciplinary situations, Burke said.

“Students should contact peer advocacy after they receive a letter from ResLife to get set up with a Peer Advocate,” she said. “However, students can feel free to talk to Peer Advocates at any time to clarify anything they want to know about duLac or the disciplinary process at Notre Dame.”

Namkung explained the specific ways that peer advocates can help students charged with ResLife violations.

“A student should know that there is a way to prepare for a hearing or conference with ResLife,” she said. “Peer advocates will urge and help a student to examine his or her case report, compile witnesses and evidence that will be presented against him or her and guide the student through the usually mystifying experience of being ResLifed. Advocates can provide assistance in areas where R.A.s or Rectors or Rectresses may not be able to.”

Because there are at least two peer advocates in every dorm, students are usually paired with a fellow dorm resident, Burke said.

“The biggest concern before a hearing is just about what to expect,” Burke added. “After a hearing, the biggest concern is what the disciplinary consequence will be.”

Namkung stressed that the program is confidential and that students should not feel intimidated by the process.

“Our advocates possess knowledge that is extremely helpful to students, and our program is 100 percent confidential,” she said. “Being ResLifed is not the end of the world, and our program is in place to make sure that students are not overwhelmed or intimidated with the process. ­Also, it’s important to point out that ORLH doesn’t want to get students in trouble — they’re just a part of the administration that is trying to establish good moral conduct among the student body.”