Information for Advisors
Who is an advisor?
The complainant and the respondent each may have one advisor, who may be any person of their choice except a member of the media or an attorney, with the exception that attorneys are permitted to serve as advisors to complainants and respondents in cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct, intimate partner violence, or stalking. Attorneys are not permitted to serve as advisors in any other type of case. The advisor may assist either party in preparing their case and in accompanying the party in a hearing. Both parties have equal rights to having an advisor present. Advisors may not serve as witnesses and are typically not permitted to address the COD, other parties, or witnesses. Exceptions are rarely made and are allowed only by the Chair. Parties are responsible for contacting and for arranging the participation of their advisors. OSC is available to assist students who are having difficulty finding an advisor by connecting them with a member of the OSC Advisor Program; students looking for assistance should email OSC to request help.
The advisor role
The advisor's role is to support and enable their student in order to participate in the COD process. Some advisors help students think through the situation; prepare for panels and other meetings; review and provide feedback (though not editing) on written material the student plans to submit; and connect the student to support resources like Mental Health and Counseling and Student Support Services as needed. Advisors can accompany the student to hearings, sanctioning panels, and other meetings related to the COD process.
Advisors do not address the members of the COD or other parties during hearings, sanctioning panels, or other meetings. They do not represent the student to the COD or present the case on the student's behalf. Advisors may not submit written material on the student's behalf and they may not write material for the student to submit as the student's own work. Advisors do not serve as intermediaries between the student and the COD. Rather, the student is expected to engage with the COD and OSC directly. The advisor should familiarize themselves with the COD Rules and Regulations and follow them at all times.
A student may choose an advisor for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a friend suggests someone; sometimes parties select someone they know and trust; sometimes parties choose someone they believe will bring specific knowledge and experience to the matter. Some questions to consider if someone asks you to serve as an advisor are as follows:
- To what degree are they seeking moral support versus planning support? Are you comfortable with that balance?
- Do you have a conflict of interest? If so, consider sharing that with the person and offering to assist them in finding another advisor.
- Time committments: Consider how flexible your schedule is and how much time you can offer to accompany a student to meetings or a Panel. The COD generally schedules hearing and sanctioning panels based on the student's schedule alone.
If you serve as an advisor:
- Participating in the discipline process can be emotional for the student. In planning, you may need to repeat information as you talk with your advisee.
- Encourage your advisee to consider their support system and how to share information with that group. That might include academic advisors, coaches, family, friends, GRT, living group members, etc.
- Not all cases are resolved via a hearing panel. Help your advisee understand that the Institute may provide a less formal administrative response.
- Your advisee may share personal information that does not directly pertain to the case. This sharing is normal and, as an advisor, you can help refer them to important resources for managing these complexities.
- Remember that your role is to help the student prepare and provide them support. It’s not your role to try to strategize or influence the process, or to try to predict the outcome for them.
Before a COD hearing, sanctioning panel, or other meeting:
- Ask your advisee to read all the documents the student has regarding the case.
- Assist your advisee in considering who might appear as witnesses or submit statements and what evidence they could submit.
- Assist your advisee in considering what to include in opening and closing statements.
- Help your advisee with deadlines.
- Help your advisee understand “preponderance of the evidence” as MIT’s standard for determining responsibility.
- Help them look to Institute policy, which the COD will evaluate, rather than what they perceive to be community norms.
- Help your advisee consider what questions they are comfortable answering and how, if at all, they will decline to answer questions.
- A hearing or sanctioning panel may be the first formal presentation for your advisee. Help them consider how to speak, dress, and present themselves in this context.
- When your advisee has meetings with OSC or others, offer to attend.
- Sometimes respondents are not permitted on campus pending the result of the process. If your advisee is not currently on campus, consider by what means you can communicate with them. Contact OSC if you believe technical support or permission to visit campus is appropriate.
- Plan for what they will do the day of the panel meeting (before and after). This can be helpful with coping and stress.
After a COD hearing or other meeting:
- Try to be available to the advisee to process and talk about how they feel it went.
- Offer to be available for the outcome meeting, if applicable.
The role of attorneys
Because the student discipline process is separate from legal processes, students are not permitted to have attorneys present during hearings or other related meetings, except that attorneys are permitted to serve as advisors to complainants and respondents in cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct, intimate partner violence, or stalking. Attorneys may not serve as advisors in any other type of case. Students may not submit materials written by attorneys. A student may always consult with attorneys outside of the proceeding itself. If your student is working with an attorney, consider the following:
- Does the attorney understand the campus process and how it differs from external legal processes? If not, they may find it helpful to review the COD Rules.
- Does the attorney understand their role and your role?
- If the attorney has questions that cannot be answered by referring to the COD rules, encourage them to contact OSC or ask MIT's Office of the General Counsel.
Advisors are not the only resource for a student participating in the COD process. While only one person can be present with a complainant/respondent during the hearing, advisors may want to suggest their advisee consult the following resources: