Every semester, college students across the country face potential punishment, including suspension or expulsion, for alleged conduct code violations. Going through the disciplinary process can be confusing and scary, and colleges often don’t give students a fair chance to defend themselves. Sometimes procedures are so deficient that they may violate students’ rights. Sometimes students are just overwhelmed by the new and high-stakes experience of navigating their school’s disciplinary system. Whatever the case, students deserve to have someone guiding and looking out for them.
Student defenders do exactly that. They know their college’s policies, and can tell accused students what to expect and what their options are. They can help students prepare their cases and advocate for themselves, while watching to make sure the school’s written procedures are followed.
Student defenders also know what students’ rights are, and they can advocate for a system that better protects those rights. With both reactive and proactive strategies, student defenders provide a service to individual students as well as the entire campus community.
Campus student defender groups have no formal connection to FIRE and will vary in size and structure. But they are united in their mission to promote fairness in campus disciplinary proceedings and protect due process for their fellow students. FIRE’s Student Defenders program exists to provide students with the resources they need to start, maintain, or grow their campus student defender groups.
We recommend starting with our comprehensive Student Defenders Guide.
Be sure to check out the tip sheets, sample forms, grant applications, and more below.
Of course, if you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to assist in whatever way we can, from analyzing your school’s policies, to developing a strategy to work with administrators, to sending a FIRE staff member to campus to speak with you and your peers. Just let us know what we can do to help!