A helping hand in student court

Everybody makes mistakes.

That’s why Brian Schepis became part of the Student Judicial Advisors, a group of students who serve as pseudo-lawyers for students who find themselves facing Student Judicial Services.

“It kills me to hear stories of people losing their housing or being suspended because they didn’t properly present their case to the University Hearing Board,” said junior Brian Schepis, director of SJA.

There are currently about 15 student advisors, all of whom had to pass the Student Judicial Advisor bar exam in order to practice. Becoming an advisor takes about one month and includes weekly courses about the judicial process, the Code of Student Conduct and how to interact with students who have been charged by Student Judicial Services.

A student becomes a full-fledged advisor once he or she has successfully completed one case under supervision. Student Judicial Services, which upholds the student code by punishing students who disobey it, runs the program.

Advisors typically help prepare students for their hearing or disciplinary conference by explaining the charges, developing a strategy to address each charge, helping them to write a personal statement, and helping them to find witnesses if necessary.

In addition, advisors explain how students should conduct themselves during hearings or conferences, help them remain calm during the hearing and answer any general questions they may have.

Student advisors are not allowed to speak for them during the actual hearing, however.

Junior Ben Hirschman has been a student advisor for several years and now helps train and guide new members of the group. Hirschman is also in charge of assigning cases to advisors.

Getting assigned cases is competitive, he said. “If an advisor demonstrates interest and efficiency when working on cases, I will certainly be more inclined to assign that advisor more cases.”

One to three students are assigned to any given case that deals with drug and alcohol transgressions, noise violations or sexual assault.

All of the cases are completely confidential.

The majority of the advisors this year are undergraduates who would like to attend law school one day, but preparation for a career as a lawyer is not the only thing that draws students to getting involved.

“I am personally involved in SJA because I enjoy helping people,” said Schepis, an international affairs major. “We all break the rules at one time or another. SJA is here to help you get through it as smoothly as possible, and hopefully with minimum repercussions.”

Hirschman finds that his role as a student advisor has improved his public speaking and people skills.

Hirschman said, “I have no plans to become a lawyer or even go to law school, but I believe that this is still a good skill for anybody to have.”

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