Judicial advocates serve KSU students

Breanne George

Students have the right to judicial support.

The judicial advocate program at Kent State provides students who go through Kent State’s judicial process with moral support and advice.

Megan Sedello, senator for university affairs, oversees the program and trains future advocates. All USS senators are trained advocates.

“Students get into serious situations where their college career is in jeopardy,” Sedello said. “Advocates can help organize students and ease their fears.”

The program is a free service to students. Many students cannot afford a lawyer, so an advocate provides knowledge on judicial affairs and prepares them for their hearing.

Students who get in trouble are required to watch a video of their rights being read, prepare for their case and schedule a hearing. The main goal is to be a support system for students.

“It’s all very overwhelming,” Sedello said. “Students just want to know what’s going on.”

Advocates explain the disciplinary process to students and their possible options. Although they can attend a student’s hearing, they cannot speak for the student.

“No advocates can defend the student at the trial or speak to the hearing officer,” said Director of Judicial Affairs R. P. Flynn. “Students have to defend themselves.”

Flynn said he thinks the judicial advocate program is beneficial because students do not have to go through the process alone.

“Students have access to free counsel and advice,” he said.

Another aspect of the judicial advocate program is the training manual paper form for students to bring to their hearing. An advocate helps the student write the form, which emphasizes the student’s accomplishments such as extracurricular activities and GPA.

“It prepares students and says ‘Yeah, I screwed up, but I want another chance at this university,'” Sedello said. “Students want to talk themselves up.”

In order to give students more options, Sedello said she wants a hearing board to be utilized instead of a hearing officer. The hearing board acts as a jury, and comprises three faculty members, two undergraduate students and a graduate student.

“It’s been available for a long time, but there has been a lack of interest and time to get it as an option to students,” Sedello said. “Last semester there was a conflict with schedules, so the students could not be trained.”

Flynn said the hearing board rarely meets. Students usually do not choose this option because of class schedule conflicts.

“More than 90 percent of local court hearings are done by judges,” Flynn said. “Kent State’s hearings are no different than what you will find in any city.”

Sedello appointed students who were involved on campus to be on the hearing board.

“I chose people who would be good representatives of the student body,” she said. “It’s basically a jury of peers.”

Sedello said she has chosen people to be on the board, but will have to train a new group since some students are graduating. She said she plans to train them on how to take cases this semester so they can start in the spring.

“When a student comes to judicial affairs, that student is facing their college career,” Sedello said. “We are here to let them know that this is just a bump in the road to their future.”

Contact student politics reporter Breanne George at [email protected]