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Peer Representatives now formalized as advocates for students facing Committee on Discipline

<h5>Students head to classes amidst fall colors near East Pyne Hall.</h5>
<h6>Guanyi Cao / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Students head to classes amidst fall colors near East Pyne Hall.
Guanyi Cao / The Daily Princetonian

Students are now able to turn to Princeton Peer Representatives for support if accused of academic violations by the Committee on Discipline (COD), formalizing an additional resource that had previously been reserved for those accused of Honor Committee violations.

Prior to this year, Princeton Peer Representatives, a student group that provides advice and support to students accused of academic integrity violations, was authorized to work only with students facing accusations through the Honor Committee. However, this past spring, peer representatives were trained to be able to attend hearings before the Committee on Discipline by Dean Joyce Chen Shueh, Secretary of the Committee on Discipline and Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students. 

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Peer Representatives are now listed as a resource for students in official communications they receive when informed they are being accused of violations by the COD.

The Honor Committee, separate from the Committee on Discipline, consists of 15 elected students in charge of investigating and upholding the Honor Code for all in-class examinations, including in-person finals, midterms, and quizzes. 

The Committee on Discipline investigates and decides on violations regarding academic work that takes place out of class, including assignments like papers, problem sets, and lab reports. Eighteen members, including students, faculty, and administrators, assess cases of academic misconduct. 

Peer Representatives support students both emotionally during the process, as well as formally with defending themselves during investigations and hearings.

Peer Representative co-chair Caroline Subbiah ’23 told The Daily Princetonian, “We’re there to clear up the process.”

“Peer reps are there to help support students throughout a process that is otherwise very odious and difficult to understand and not well explained,” Peer Representative co-chair Zach Sahin ’23 added.

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Students undergoing investigation through the COD were previously allowed to invite any member of the University community, including fellow students, to help them through the process. But Peer Representatives were not explicitly offered as advisers to students undergoing COD investigations as they were during analogous Honor Committee investigations. 

Last semester, Peer Representatives were officially listed as a resource for students going through the COD process, following communication between the Peer Representatives and students members of COD, according to Chen Shueh in a statement to the ‘Prince.’

In the COD process, during a student’s initial meeting with the Committee, they are informed of resources available.

“Those resources would include your director of studies, certain faculty trained as advisors, some CPS advisors, and then peer reps. At that point, you have to take the initiative to reach out,” said Sahin.

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Conversations about the official authorization of Peer Representatives as advisors for students and the training of Peer Representatives by the COD followed the group’s formalization over the course of the past few years, including the inclusion of the group’s description in Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities. 

According to Sahin, previous perceptions of the student group as a team of “gung ho defense attorneys that were very adamant about the rights of the student and their ability to remain innocent,” impeded on the Peer Representatives’s involvement with the Committee on Discipline.

“They thought that we were potentially preventing the truth by being such adamant defendants of the students,” he said. “After conversations, they’ve seen the benefits that a student representative can have.”

Faculty members like deans have traditionally been listed as resources for students undergoing investigation, because of their ability to help students with accommodations and planning in the event of suspension, according to Chen Shueh and the co-chairs of the Peer Representatives.  

“If a student is put on disciplinary probation, the deans can continue to follow up with the student during the period of probation and answer any questions that arise,” Chen Shueh said in a statement. “If a student is suspended, there may be academic or curricular considerations that the deans can assist the student with, as well as practical questions about how suspensions work that the deans can help answer.”

Speaking about the differences between the Honor Committee and the COD, Subbiah said, “Even though they both deal with academic integrity cases, they really are two very separate bodies.”

The proximity of Peer Representatives to students’ cases of academic integrity violations differs between the two committees.

Sahin described how the Honor Committee informs the Peer Representatives of cases and students who have meetings with the committee. “We put two peer reps on standby in case the student requests us,” he said.

With the COD, the part of the process is lacking. 

“With the Committee on Discipline, we’re not told about any of the cases, we’re not told that there's a case in the pipeline, nothing like that,” Sahin said.

Additionally, representatives serve different roles during hearings for the Honor Committee as compared to the Committee on Discipline. 

For the Honor Committee, “the peer representative may clarify or supplement [the student’s] answers, question witnesses, and make final remarks,” Chen Shueh wrote. 

But for the Committee on Discipline, peer representatives cannot “answer questions for a student,” but they “can ask any questions they believe are relevant, prompt a student to raise a particular point, and make a closing statement during the hearing.”

Chen Shueh is scheduled to host a second training for new or returning Peer Representatives this month.

Isabel Yip is an assistant News editor who typically covers University Affairs and student life. She is a sophomore from Miami, Fla. Please direct corrections requests to corrections at dailyprincetonian.com

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