ASNMU is reviewing legislation that would create a student defense office to help students who are brought in front of the All-Student Judiciary (ASJ).
Aaron Loudenslager, an off-campus representative for ASNMU, is the student responsible for proposing the student defense office.
“The defense office will have student counsel trained by our program’s advisers on how to interview student clients, argue their cases before ASJ if they would like us to and write their appeals,” Loudenslager said.
This group is based on similar groups already in place at Michigan State University and the University of Maryland.
This group would be made up of volunteer students who would help students if they were charged with violating the student code.
“The students that wanted to be in the student defense office would have to have a basic understanding of the law and student code,” Loudenslager said.
In order to be appointed into the group, ASNMU has to officially vote them into the group, Loudenslager said.
Right now, if a student has to appear before the ASJ, there is no set group of students to help them. If the group is created there will be an office where the students can go to find a representative.
“We would be doing the same thing as lawyers, but we are not practicing law,” said Loudenslager. “We are just students for students.”
Ruth Watry, the adviser to the group, spent two years as the chair of the College of Arts and Science Advisory Council (CASAC). During her years on the CASAC, the group heard four grade appeals. A grade appeal is when a student repeals the decision made by the ASJ. She said this proposed office could be very useful to students in a grade appeal situation.
“I also see the office being useful to students who are being charged with a violation of the student code since there is a similar requirement, that requirement being, the counsel must be a member of the university community and cannot be a licensed attorney,” said Watry.
The student code says that the student charged shall be entitled to be accompanied by the counsel of his/her choice; counsel shall be a member of the faculty, staff or student body of the University. The counsel shall not be a licensed or a practicing attorney.
Students who would have to go in front of the ASJ have been accused of violating the student code. The hearing is usually a closed hearing. The only people allowed to be at a closed hearing are the members of the judiciary and the advisers, the student charged and his/her counsel, witnesses, and individuals interested in the case who have been authorized to attend.
A student can petition to have an open hearing, but the request must be submitted at least 24 hours in advance. In an open hearing, any member of the university community can attend, but all other people are subject to prior approval.
The penalties that the ASJ can impose on students are a warning, which is an official written reprimand; warning probation, where if the student violates the student code again, they could be subject to disciplinary probation; and if a student violates the disciplinary probation, they could be suspended or expelled.
According to the student code, a student shall be entitled to present his/her case through statements, questions, witnesses and other forms of evidence. The student also has the right to appeal any decision made by ASNMU or to request leniency of a penalty.
ASNMU is still just talking about the student defense office. If it is voted in, the office will be created and ready to advise students by the winter 2011 semester.