The Student Dispute Resolution Center officially takes on a new role today — student advocacy.
Before this year the center handled only the informal stages of grievance procedures, but with additional funds from student fees, it has hired a second-year law student to help students through formal judicial hearings.
Marco Egoavil, the center’s new advocate, will work 10 to 15 hours a week to represent students with disputes that could not be settled by mediation with a dispute resolution center ombudsman.
Egoavil will likely be working with students who have disputes regarding their grades or who have been accused of violating the student conduct code, among other things.
All cases will now go through an ombudsman for mediation before they go into formal proceedings, said Jan Morse, administrative director of the Student Dispute Resolution Center.
“That’s the way people like it,” Morse said. “No one likes to lose control of the outcome. During the informal level, the two parties are really responsible for coming up with a solution.”
If the parties can’t come up with a solution, students might appear before a panel in a hearing, roughly equivalent to a court, and Egoavil would be the equivalent of their lawyer. Despite the rough similarity, the University’s process differs from a court of law, Egoavil said.
“Here at the University it’s going to be a less adversarial environment,” than in a court of law, Egoavil said.
The Student Advocate Service, which has in the past represented students in judicial hearings, was denied funding for this school year. The Student Service Fees Committee recommended de-funding the service in March. Because of legal questions and a dispute about funding, the advocate service has yet to close.
Before January, the advocate service had three full-time advocates.
“I think the students are definitely losing out in the decision that was made not to fund the Student Advocate Service,” said Tim Wolf, director of the Student Advocate Service.
Morse said that before the SDRC had its own advocate, students switched offices and went to the Student Advocacy Center when their cases couldn’t be resolved by an ombudsman.
She said handling informal and formal dispute resolution within the same office will cut down on the time it takes to settle a case, and will also make the transition easier.
“When the case goes from an informal to a formal level, the transition will be very smooth,” Morse said.
Morse said the dispute resolution Center handles between 700 and 800 cases a year, and resolves about 95 percent of them informally.
Egoavil will handle the remaining 5 percent. He said he can give a student the level of assistance they want.
“I don’t necessarily have to be the student’s voice at a hearing,” Egoavil said. “For example, I think on many occasions, the student just wants some guidance and someone there at the hearing, and I can assist in their case.”
Egoavil has courtroom experience from working in a public defender’s office and has handled two criminal trials. He is also bilingual and is certified to translate Spanish.