The Student Advocate’s Office aims to transform the processes at UC Berkeley to be truly equitable for students. We take problematic trends we see in our casework and mobilize groups to create transformative change for students across campus. Below is just a sample of the policy projects our respective divisions have been working on in the past year.
The Academic Division is improving the usage of Faculty Disposition Forms. Currently, FDF’s are supposed to speed up the misconduct process by giving a student the chance to admit to cheating if there is overwhelming evidence against them. Unfortunately, we have seen that this process is often coercive, asking students to admit responsibility in a short time frame without informing them of their rights. Our office is proposing amendments to FDFs by working with the Center for Student Conduct and Academic Senate to change the way the forms care carried out.
The Academic Division is collaborating with department heads to provide more expansive COVID accommodations for students. Right now, the process is not standardized, leading to confusion for students who need accommodations due to contracting COVID or being in close contact. Academic is collaborating with the Financial Aid division of SAO to increase the transparency of the COVID accommodation process.
Our caseworkers have seen too many instances in which prejudice impacts the conduct process, which can lead a student to be unfairly charged with conduct or receiving too extreme of sanctions. To ensure students get the resources they need to bring up issues of discrimination in the conduct process, conduct caseworkers are crafting screening questions, resources, and trainings for caseworkers meant to support students facing discrimination in the conduct process and ensure all students are treated equally in the conduct process regardless of their identities. The Conduct Division is also advocating for the incorporation of anti-discrimination resources to be included on the Center for Student Conduct’s reporting site.
There is a separate conduct process for those charged in residential halls as opposed to the CSC. While the Conduct Division has seen both types of cases, they were not previously trained in Residential Hall cases nor had a relationship with Residential Hall Staff. To better serve students going through this process, conduct caseworkers are collaborating with Res-Hall staff to create a formal mechanism of referring clients to SAO and to train caseworkers in Res-Hall conduct processes.
Students living in on-campus residence halls typically have to vacate during winter break. For this reason, for the past couple years, SAO has helped organize the Winter Break Housing Project, dedicated to providing housing for students with high need who will be unhoused or experience unstable/unsafe housing during the winter break period. For the 2021-22 school year, this program housed the largest number of students to date, and we are working to expand the program and ideally, keep more residence halls open over winter break.
Berkeley faces an acute housing crisis that places students under extreme stress year after year. Working with the Basic Needs Center, SAO is helping gather student anecdotes and draft student messaging to help advocate for safe, accessible, and affordable housing for all UC Berkeley.
The Student Advocate’s Office provides confidential casework, and the Grievance division in particular often handles SVSH (Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment) cases. We are partnering with PATH to Care and the CalGreeks Community in order to promote our casework services among these communities that often encounter SVSH-related issues. This project seeks to bridge this information gap and offer SAO casework resources to communities who may benefit from these services.
The process of filing a grievance with the University can be confusing and involve many different stakeholders. To ensure our clients understand the process before making a decision to pursue, the Grievance division has created a comprehensive packet describing the options students have to pursue a grievance, formally or informally
Policy Suggestion Form
If you have questions, comments, or concerns about SAO’s policy, please feel free to contact the External Chief of Staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.