The NMU Student Defense Office is a new student organization that has been created to help students brought in front of the All-Student Judiciary (ASJ) and other parts of the introductory disputes process.
The NMU Student Defense Office was started by Aaron Loudenslager, a student majoring in economics and political science with an emphasis is pre-law. Loudenslager got the idea to start the organization from a similar program at Michigan State University.
“This is the first time that students will have someone to go to, to get counsel that they actually want,” said Loudenslager.
The members will be made up of students that have applied and have gone through an application and interview process with one of the advisors. Any NMU student with over a 2.5 GPA and is free of disciplinary punishments at the moment, such as a warning probation, disciplinary probation and suspensions, can apply to be a counsel member.
“Counsel (for students) will be decided by the head counsel,” said Loudenslager. “The head counsel will distribute the cases to the other counsel members as need be depending on how many cases we have.”
The Student Defense Office currently has no actual office location, but the organization may check out study rooms in the library during certain hours for students to come in, Loudenslager said.
Loudenslager originally attempted to get the Student Defense Office approved through ASNMU when he was a member, but decided to take it on independently with the help from one of the Student Defense Office advisers Steve Nelson, a political science professor.
“The (Student Defense Office) is based on a perception that students could use an advocate as they are processed through the NMU disciplinary process and other dealings with Public Safety and the Dean of Students,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the impact of disciplinary or academic hearings can be very serious. Reputations and future academic and employment opportunities can be impacted, he said.
“The due process rights of the students must be zealously protected,” said Nelson. “The current prohibition against legal representation puts the students in a vulnerable situation.”
The student code states that a student charged shall be entitled to be accompanied by counsel of his/her choice. The counsel can be a member of the faculty, staff or student body of the university. Students are not allowed to have counsel that is licensed or a practicing attorney. Any student wanting to seek counsel from the Student Defense Office can contact the student defense office by e-mail at [email protected]