Presenters explain duties, background

By Matt Gilbert and Markos Moulitsas

Questions have arisen over the fairness of the judicial hearing process for students, as outlined in the Student Judicial Code.

Students charged with violating the code must present their case before a board or hearing officer. In order to better present their case, these students have the option to enlist the services of a student advocate.

The student advocates help the alleged offenders prepare their cases for presentation before the hearing board or officer. The hearing board is composed of two faculty members and three students drawn from the Residence Hall Association and the Student Association.

Judicial advocates are students who volunteer their time to help other students who have been accused of violating the student judicial code.

The presenter is hired by the Student Judicial Office to present the university’s case before the hearing officer.

When a student is charged with violating the Student Judicial Code, the director of the office meets with the alleged offender, where they discuss the incident, and the alleged offender enters a plea of either guilty, not-guilty or no-contest. If a plea of not-guilty is entered, the case will usually go to a hearing.

Also, if a student pleads not-guilty, but disagrees with the sanctions, he or she may appeal the sanctions, which would send the case to an appeals board. The sanctions are determined before the meeting by the director of the office.

According to Larry Bolles, director of the University Judicial Office, the Judicial Office handled 609 cases in the 1993 spring semester, about 125 of which went to a hearing.

Assistant Judicial Officer Jenine Povlsen came to the University Judicial Office four years ago and acts as presenter for the office.

She said before coming to NIU, she worked for DeKalb County Court Services as a Community Restitutions Services Coordinator. Povlsen said the duties of her position were similar to those of a probation officer.

Povlsen said when judges would sentence defendants to community service, she worked with the defendant in completing those obligations. Her tasks included finding work sites in the community and making sure the hours were completed.

“I prepare,” Povlsen said. “I take a considerable amount of time to be prepared for my hearings.” She said she did not believe she has any unfair advantage over advocates.

“I don’t see it that way. I don’t win all my cases. I think the important things for advocates is that they do their homework, especially for cases that are very involved,” she said.

Povlsen added she has no formal training in handling judicial cases except the job experience in NIU’s Judicial Office.

Hearing Officer Terry Jones has been at NIU for three years. “We’re not staffed with lawyers,” Jones said. “Although there are similarities, we’re not trying to practice law here.”

Jones was reluctant to detail his prior experience, but he did say he had over ten years previous experience in higher education at city colleges of Chicago, as well as experience in NIU’s Office of Student Financial Aid and the Office of Admissions.

He said he had no prior experience in any kind of judicial system.