Peer representatives seek to increase transparency, counsel students earlier on in Honor Committee Process| Sep 24, 2019
Every student accused of an Honor Code violation is entitled to a Peer Representative to guide them through the process. Prior to this semester, many did not know of this right. Peer Representatives are aiming to change that.
Currently, accused students are not informed of their Honor Constitution right to a Peer Representative until they have reached the hearing stage of the Honor Code violation process. Peer Representative chair Bozhidar (Bobo) Stankovikj ’20 hopes that Peer Reps can become involved and work on gathering evidence, offering emotional support, and planning for next steps as soon as students learn they are under investigation.
Peer Reps are a group of trained students independent of the Honor Committee who can help gather evidence, interview witnesses, and present opening and closing statements during Honor Code violation hearings, among other things.
According to Stankovikj, Peer Reps essentially act as threefold advisors: procedural advisors akin to public defenders, emotional support bases, and liaisons between the Honor Committee and accused students.
Students accused of a violation first receive an email notification from the Honor Committee after the Committee has reviewed the accusation and interviewed relevant witnesses. The student is informed that an accusation has been levied against them, and they have the right to bring a peer to the initial interview with investigators.
However, in the past, the initial email did not tell students about the Peer Rep role until they proceed beyond the initial interview to the hearing stage, when they are assigned a Peer Rep by the Honor Committee.
“This year, I’ve worked with the Honor Committee to make sure that … there’s an explicit paragraph in that email,” Stankovikj said.
On their new website, the Peer Reps strongly encourage students to ask for a Peer Rep as their accompanying peer to the initial interview. Peer Reps can also meet with students before their initial interview to “explain the process and offer support,” according to the Peer Rep website.
“Optimally, I would want the peer reps to be present from the moment the student finds out that they are under investigation,” Stankovikj said.
This semester, the Peer Reps also expanded their efforts to attract applications for the position, sending the applications to numerous listservs as well as setting up a website that explains the resource and how it can be used.
Though the position has also been application-based in the past, the Peer Reps committee decided they wanted to publicize the position more this year. Stankovikj himself only found out about the position through a friend in Mock Trial.
“One of our priorities for this year was to really expand the applicant pool and diversify the applicant pool so it’s not only people who essentially do public speaking activities on campus already,” he said. “[W]e really tried to make sure that students that come from different backgrounds are also being represented on campus as well.”
In addition to sending emails to several listservs, including those of residential colleges, the committee also set up a website with further information and responses to frequently asked questions.
New Peer Reps will be trained by studying previous Honor Code cases and paired with an older Peer Rep.
Honor Committee chair Camille Moeckel ’20 said through an email statement that she believes the position has increased visibility this year due to Stankovikj’s efforts.
“These efforts are significant because Peer Representatives are incredibly important for students during hearings, and the position requires thoughtfulness, intelligence, and empathy,” she said.
More information about Peer Reps is available at their website.