student life

Student Advocates Office aims to empower, mentor students

Tucked away into the halls of the second floor of Eigenmann Hall West is the Student Advocates Office, a confidential service available to IU students for a variety of purposes.

The Student Advocates Office is made up of three teams that help students who have been charged with academic or personal misconduct, work with students who experience an academic problem and provides support and resources for survivors of sexual misconduct or sexual violence.

“Our mission is to empower, to mentor students,” said Sally Jones, director of the Student Advocates Office. “We work with students who present or come to us with particularly complicated or sensitive issues. We try to partner with students to help them problem-solve.”

The Judicial team helps students who have been charged with academic or personal misconduct. The advocates in this team work with students to help them prepare appeals and understand their rights and responsibilities. They also accompany students to hearings or meetings with faculty.

The Academic Administrative team works with students who are experiencing some kind of academic issue, including withdrawals and the effect of medical or personal issues on attendance, as well as students having a problem with an administrative office on campus.

The third team works with survivors of sexual misconduct or sexual violence. The advocates provide support and connection to resources and assistance for survivors as they go through campus judicial system. Jones said the members on this team are full-time or part-time paid employees rather than volunteers because the demands of the job are often greater with respect to time.

Jones said students seeking help can call or email the office, visit the website or set up an appointment to speak with advocates. She said the office emphasizes individualized, personal service for students.

“We want to have that one-on-one with students,” she said. “We may work with — in fact, we do work with — hundreds of students who’ve been charged with personal misconduct. But each one of those cases is individual and deserves the kind of privacy or individual attention that we’re able to give to it.”

She said what differentiates the Student Advocates Office from other student resources on campus is that it has a broader view and the staff are knowledgeable about the interdependency of different areas of campus.

Often advocates will make referrals to more focused resources, such as Counseling and Psychological Services or Academic Advising.

“We are unique in that we point the students in the direction of other programs on the campus based on their needs,” said volunteer student advocate Nick Hipskind.

Hipskind became a professor at IU in 1970 and later was the Associate Dean of University Division. He retired in 2005 and became a student advocate in the same year.

He said his experience as a faculty member helped shape his time as an advocate.

“I guess I knew professors’ feelings about certain issues with certain types of students or certain problems that students may have, so that gave me some insight,” he said.

Hipskind said he enjoys working at the Student Advocates Office, because it gives him a way to continue working with students even though he is not teaching.

“It’s always nice when you see a success story where you have helped a student help themselves,” he said. “And the people here who volunteer are very dedicated people.”

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