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New Student Advocacy Office aims to empower students

Life Chiropractic College West is a community that nurtures a culture of service, both within and outside of the campus grounds. The experience for every one of the students is a key part of their overall education, and from time to time, incidents occur that are not conducive to the learning experience. To ensure both the physical and emotional well-being of students, as well as their safety, Life West has processes and procedures that allow students to get help facilitating resolutions for any issues and complaints.

The new Student Advocacy Office (SAO) is taking the lead in implementing and streamlining the student process for bringing issues to light. Modeled after the University of California-Berkeley student advocacy program, Life West’s SAO is a resource for students to bring concerns to the college through their peers, in addition to seeking help from members of the administration.

“The hope is that this will create a sense of safety for students and complete transparency in the process,” according to Lori Pino, Academic Counselor. “By working with a peer, students may be more likely to come forward and feel protected.”

Student Advocates serve with an open door and friendly face—someone who will listen to student concerns, help facilitate resolution and inform involved parties in a timely manner.

Incidents and issues might include claims of sexual harassment or assault, discrimination, unfair application of college policy, inappropriate or unprofessional conduct, academic integrity violation, damaged or stolen personal property, or a medical emergency.

How the process works 

The Student Advocacy Office has streamlined the process of reporting an issue. The form is available online at lifewest.edu.

“With the new SAO initiative, there is only one form to fill out,” says Dani Lorta, Student Life Manager. “When an incident occurs, students complete the form, and then it’s submitted through a specific student-peer point person—the Student Advocate. The advocate’s role is to help the student understand the college’s reporting procedures and college policy, and to access both college and community resources to address and resolve a variety of issues. The Student Advocate also ensures that the incident form is routed through the proper channels while tracking the process to provide status updates when necessary.”

Life West’s SAO is located in the Student Life office. Student Advocates are on hand for drop-ins during the 9:20 am break, during lunch from 11:40 am-1 pm, and from 5-5:30 pm. Appointments can also be scheduled via email at studentadvocate@college.lifewest.edu.

Lorta says, “The SAO process is intended to be proactive in addressing student concerns, creating a mechanism for students to come forward with both a sense of safety and on equal footing. The overall purpose is to make the process student-centered so that they feel secure in bringing forward concerns rather than relegating problems to back of mind and allowing issues to fester.”

The SAO is growing already in terms of the roles Student Advocates are playing.

“As the SAO continues to mature, other ideas about how to utilize the Advocates’ training and skills are surfacing, specifically around speaking to the student body on different concepts such as the bystander effect, or what constitutes harassment or discrimination,” says Pino. “This kind of instruction can help students discern what incidents are actionable and what can be done to help remedy issues.”

Seeking student peers

For those students possessing a desire to advocate for their fellow classmates, the Student Advocate is a federal work study position posted publicly. Student Advocates staff the SAO during office hours each day, providing support to those in need, ensuring incident forms are routed properly and monitoring the process to assess and communicate the status to the student. Additional responsibilities include monitoring the Life West website for any inconsistencies or changes in college policy, ensuring consistent messaging between the website and the student FAQs on Canvas, and monitoring the accuracy and availability of paper copies of incident forms, policies and procedures.

Qualifications:

    • Minimum GPA 2.5
    • 2nd Quarter or higher
    • Minimum 3-quarter commitment
    • Non-judgmental, friendly demeanor
    • Preferred experience with conflict resolution, restorative justice, non-violent communication and/or peer mediation
    • Ability to keep confidentiality and hold professional boundaries
    • Administrative skills including making copies, filing, updating records
    • Reliable, organized

For more information, contact Student Life Manager Dani Lorta.

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