Empowering and Supporting Students: The Vital Role of Student Advisors and Title IX Advocates

July 27, 2023
Student Advisor

The Role of a Student Advisor

If a student finds themselves involved in a Title IX proceeding, whether as complainants or respondents, or any other form of student conduct or disciplinary process, it is crucial that they promptly seek help from a seasoned Title IX Advocate or Student Advisor. In this scenario, having experience truly makes a difference, as Title IX Advocates and Student Advisors possess a deep understanding of college and university policies and federal regulations like Title IX. This knowledge is vital in providing support to students navigating both Title IX and campus disciplinary proceedings, which can be complicated and emotionally challenging processes.

In fact, the 2020 amendments to the federal Title IX regulations acknowledge the crucial role of Title IX Advisors and Student Advisors by guaranteeing students the right to choose their own advisor; this advisor can be anyone from a friend to an attorney. Students are not limited to choosing an advisor that may appear on a list provided to them by the university or college. Although advisors appearing on a university or college’s list have been trained, that does not always mean they have the experience or skill necessary to successfully guide a student through a Title IX or disciplinary process.

What to Look for in a Student Advisor

When looking for a Student Advisor or Title IX Advocate, students should seek someone who is calm, reassuring, non-judgmental, flexible, transparent, approachable and is an active listener. Experienced Title IX Advocates and Student Advisors will display culture competence and use gender neutral language, likely asking for the student to identify preferred pronouns. It is also important that the Student Advisor or Title IX Advocate be trauma informed, confidential and have access to referral resources should those be required. Perhaps, however, the most important thing is that a student feels confident and comfortable with their advisor as they will be discussing topics of a sensitive or personal nature that they may not even share with their close friends or family.

Guiding and Supporting Students

The Student Advisor and Title IX Advocates role throughout the Title IX or other disciplinary process is to serve a support person to the student, while also guiding the student through the process. An experienced and skilled Title IX Advocate or Student Advisor will help prepare students for hearings and meetings, review evidence and reports with the student, assist with the preparation of any written responses, assist the student with preparing a timeline, assist the student with identifying relevant evidence and witnesses and help the student understand the outcome and any appeal rights that may exist. In the case of a Title IX proceeding, a student’s advisor will be the person who conducts cross-examination of the opposing party and all witnesses at the live hearing. An experienced Student Advisor or Title IX advocate never lets their student enter a situation without a clear understanding of what might be expected, which in turn helps the student feel more in control of the process.

The Limitations of Speaking on Behalf of the Student

It’s important to understand that, in most cases, a Student Advisor or Title IX Advocate cannot speak on behalf of the student they are advising. The only exception to this rule is during a live Title IX hearing when they are allowed to conduct cross-examination. However, Student Advisors and Tile IX Advocates do work with students to develop a clear and concise narrative version of events, prepare any necessary action statements, and present information clearly at both the student’s interview and hearing. A Student Advisor or Title IX Advocate that is an attorney can also advise a student about the implications of any campus testimony or statements on pending criminal proceedings, if applicable.

Choosing the Right Advisor

Throughout the Title IX and disciplinary process, the relationship between a student and their Title IX Advocate or Student Advisor should be open and genuine. A student should always feel supported and valued by their Title IX Advocate and Student Advisor. A student should never feel that their Student Advisor or Title IX advocate is making decisions for them or doing something without their approval. If a student has any doubts about their Title Advocate or Student Advisor or there is a lack of compatibility, students are free to change advisors at any time.

While a Title IX process or other disciplinary proceeding may leave a student feeling like they have no control, students always have a choice as to who serves as their advisor. If the first choice of advisor does not work out, just keep looking. The perfect match is out there.

About the Author

About the Author: Dayna M. Hloska, J.D., has worked with college and university students for 29 years. In addition to her career as a Title IX Advocate, she has volunteered thousands of hours advising sorority women and Greek Organizations at both a local and national level. Prior to becoming a Title IX Advocate, Dayna practiced law in the State of Ohio for 9 years where she was part of the National Coordinating Counsel team for two large corporations.  Dayna ultimately decided to leave the practice of law in order to pursue her passion of helping individuals, particularly women and college students.

If you find yourself navigating a Title IX or disciplinary process, remember that seeking the support and guidance of an experienced Title IX Advocate or Student Advisor can make a significant difference. For further assistance, reach out to KJK Title IX Advocate Dayna Hloska (DMH@kjk.com; 216.736.7236).