FAQs

How will selection work?

  • The selection process will happen during Winter term and decisions will be made before Spring term. Candidates submit an online application and indicate where they are interested in serving as PA. 
  • Applications will be reviewed by search committee (Dr. Lal, Joe, RLCs, RA & student representation from each house) to determine who will receive an interview. We will solicit feedback on candidates from students in the house (each house will have the opportunity to provide positive or negative feedback on any applicant for a position in their community) 
  • Interviews conducted by interview committee (Dr. Lal/Joe/RLCs, RAs and 2-3 student representatives from each residence) to determine who will be selected for the class. 

Will we be held to stricter reporting guidelines?

No, you are not going to be held to more strict reporting guidelines. You will be expected to consult/collaborate (as you do currently) with other entities (RA, RLC, CC, etc), as needed, to ensure that those coming to you are receiving the appropriate level of help.

Will there be any compensation?

There will not be compensation in the form of stipend, board/room credit, or other formal payment. The goal is not to make people in these position mandated reporters.

How will training be structured?

All Peer Advocates must complete a 2-term class (for which they will receive academic credit, 3 units).

How would overloading work with the new cap on units? What happens if someone can’t fit it into their units but really wants to be a PA?

The deans have said they will approve the extra units for any qualified candidate chosen through the selection process. Students are encouraged to strongly consider how the additional units may impact their academic load.

Will students be able to be both Health Ads and Peer Advocates? A lot of people are interested in both (and they complement one another well), but the unit cap may make this impossible.

  • We may need to look at this on a case-by-case basis, but if someone wants to do both and has the time to commit to both classes (and the ability to manage the rest of their coursework), I don’t think we would turn away a qualified candidate. It is important for candidates to think carefully about what they feel they can manage because academics should be the top priority. 
  • If some communities have a lot of interest in both positions, it may be more beneficial for that community if there is less overlap.

How do previous interactions with Administration affect your ability to be a Peer Advocate? For example, if you’ve been CRC’d/UASHed/BOC’d/on leave? How does a Peer Advocate come back from something like that?

Being involved in such instances does not automatically disqualify someone from being a Peer Advocate. It is important, however, that students considering the role are able to manage the demands of being a student and role model for their peers.

Once a Peer Advocate, always a Peer Advocate?

  • Once trained, PAs can serve in the role for the remainder of their time at Caltech. 
  •  Ideally, students apply as frosh/sophomores, and start the PA course at the end of that year. They will then serve in the role starting sophomore/junior year while participating in the second term of the course. After the first full year in the role, there will be a new class of PAs, so previously trained PAs can formally continue in the role, or just be available as an additional resource for their communities.
  • We understand that it can be difficult to be available during senior year due to grad school applications and travel for job/grad school interviews, thus students will not be eligible to apply during their junior year.

If students are uncomfortable with having their house comments (related to the application) being read by you, what are their options?

All comments will be read by us. Discomfort with comments being read is an indication that perhaps another level of intervention is necessary. There shouldn’t be anything that is being said that is irrelevant to one’s ability to do the job well.

What if someone who is a PA drops out? How is the house pick impacted?

  • If during the first term of the class, PAs decide to remove themselves from the position, we will search for an alternate to fill the role and take over the room. If room picks have already happened when someone decides to leave the program, we will evaluate their need for the room pick based on timing and individual circumstances. Should someone apply, do all of the work, and during fall/winter decide that they need to focus on other things, we will not make them move out of their space, and rather we will work with the house leadership to find an appropriate replacement from other people living in the house. Should someone join the program after the course has started, they will need to meet with us for interim training and attend the class the following year. 
  • The PA website has information regarding resignation and reinstatement under the PA resources heading.

Is there someone who will represent each house and regularly meet with the program coordinators?

We have formed the PA Advisory Committee (PAAC) to meet one time per month.

During selection our most valuable resource is the comments submitted by the house. How do you plan on incorporating this input in your ideal process?

This will continue to be a part of the selection process and is taken into account during decision making.

How will admin and the Counseling Center staff help ensure a balanced/diverse team (experience, skills, social group, etc)?

We continue to involve students and RAs from each house to ensure that anything that is not assessed during an interview is accounted for.

What does it mean that PAs are asked to personally uphold institute policy? Does it mean that you have to report violations, etc?

All this means is that we expect PAs to manage their own behavior and follow rules. You are not required/being asked to report violations.

Since PAs are expected to personally uphold institute policy, what would happen to a PA if they are convicted of a BoC or CRC violation? The proceedings of these committees are supposed to be confidential, but if they are just straight up removed, people can probably piece together what happened.

We hope that through the selection process we are able to select PAs who would not be involved in such instances. However, if this does happen, we will need to gradually phase them out of the position. We can easily state that the person decided to step away from the position for personal reasons. Please keep in mind that this is determined on a case-by-case basis and a BoC or CRC violation does not automatically result in dismissal from the PA position.

Will the position of PA affect disciplinary hearings? For positions like house presidents, etc, disciplinary hearings tend to take the view that because these people are student leaders that they should be held to a higher standard.

We consider PAs to be role models for their community and should abide by institute policy just as other students.

If it becomes clear that a PA is not performing the role well, what do you envision happening? And what would you to use to evaluate a PA’s performance in the role?

We will send out feedback forms to each house. Also keep in mind that we will be in closer contact with PAs because of bi-weekly meetings we will have with them.

Will PAs be guaranteed room picks in their area all years that they serve, or just their first year? If the latter, it is possible that resources might end up being unequally distributed as people move around. Is this a concern?

It is the latter. Each house will always have a certain number of PAs + we will have the Caltech Connect training so that those who would like to provide general support still can.

What is Caltech Cares Training?

This will be offered regularly throughout the term and will involve a component focused on listening skills/engaging others in open dialogue and a suicide prevention component that integrates experiential practice and role plays to promote a student’s ability to engage in a discussion with a peer about suicide, provide appropriate support, and refer to appropriate resources.

How much say will a house have in which members get chosen for the program?

The interview committee will roughly be 50/50 students and non-students (i.e. RAs, RLCs, PA program advisors), We will also solicit feedback from the house at large about the candidates for their community.

What do you plan to do if (after their first year of being a PA) a PA decides to quit/move out of their house? Would the house be allowed to have more than 3 in training for that year?

We expect that some PAs will want to continue in the role, and others may not, but with 4 new PAs trained each year, we expect that the numbers will not drop significantly year-to-year. We hope to have flexibility down the line to adjust the number of PAs trained for each house, but we cannot know for certain if that will even be necessary at this point.

At the end of first term, most freshmen are still trying to figure out who they are; there's a chance that they may think they are ready to be a house leader, but actually are not. Is there a re-selection process to appoint new PAs if someone isn't ready?

The course will serve as a good indicator for readiness, and if someone should prove not to be a good fit for the role, we will discuss this with that person and decide the best course of action from there. Depending on the timing, this may allow us to recruit another student to fill the PA position that is vacated. We will always initially work to resolve any issues through education and mentoring prior to moving toward any form of resignation or dismissal.

Is the peer advocate program going to encourage more freshmen to apply (who will be here longer) or sophomores?

We welcome any applications from current freshmen and sophomores, and the decision will be made based on individual fit for the role, as well as a consideration for how the selected candidates will function as a team and provide support for as many students as possible in their community.

What exactly will be taught during the class?

As you know, the class is 2 quarters in length. The class will run for 2 hours 1x/week. The first term of the course will focus on active listening skills, identifying students in distress, and a suicide prevention training/program specifically designed for the university population. Students will be expected to engage in a role play at the end of the term to demonstrate skills and knowledge. The Fall term course will include both lectures and discussions on issues of substance abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, depression, and other relevant mental health topics to increase PA understanding of common struggles on Caltech campus.

Regarding roompicks, would the PAs who are selected this year be guaranteed a spot in the house next year?

Yes

However, with only 3-4 members of the peer advocate program, there's a good chance that you will not have a friend who is a peer advocate. There's no real way to force someone to go to a peer advocate if they don't want to; how can we ensure that there is still coverage for everyone?

Based on student feedback we understand that students often go to friends first and so we are also adding a general Caltech Cares training that allows individuals interested to learn basic skills necessary to be available as support to their peers. There is no way for anyone to force someone else to seek a formal support person. We are also moving away from the notion of “individual coverage” because not only does this make people uncomfortable but also there is no research evidence that it ensures the safety of others. Instead, we want PAs to be open and accessible resources who can connect peers to an appropriate level of support based on their training.

If the PAs are all chosen from within the houses, and some people leave to go to Bechtel, the houses may be left with only a few PAs. Is there going to be a separate application process for people who want to be Bechtel PAs?

We will be choosing Bechtel PAs separate from other house PAs but they will use the same application.

Is there is anything in place (other than Caltech Connect) that would help cover off campus students - in both affiliated and unaffiliated housing. Would the PAs from the houses be responsible for checking in on the students off campus?

The PAs will be resources available to everyone in their community whether they live on or off campus. Marks/Braun and potentially Bechtel will be the only unaffiliated options, and we have allotted PAs for both communities. This is open to change over time based on the needs of the off-campus population.

How will you support rising Sophomores serving in the PA role who may have less experience on campus and ensure that they are effective resources?

The first term of the course will prepare any student to function effectively as a PA and the second term of the course coincides with their first term of active service to ensure formal support from the program advisors. Additionally, after completion of the full 2 term course, the PAs will be involved in regular meetings with the program advisors for overall support and with their RAs and house PA groups to best meet the needs of their specific communities.

How would you support someone who doesn’t get the PA position?

When someone is not selected for the position, we or supportive people from the house will check in with them and make sure they continue to feel connected to their community.

Is there a way for students who are not becoming PAs to take similar classes (maybe in seminar format)?

Each quarter we will be offering Caltech Connect training that provides anyone who desires to be involved in supporting others an opportunity to learn information that would allow them to do so. Keep in mind, this training would be less than that of a PA but will allow for the ability to provide some level of support.