Hidden in the confines of the A.S. administration offices lies the Legal Resource Center. It is equipped with two lawyers ready and waiting to advise students on almost any legal matter including conflicts between landlords and tenants, conflicts between off-campus roommates, consumer rip-offs, traffic tickets, and DUIs and MIPs. Surprisingly, too many students are unaware of this service, so fewer students use it than our budget allows for. This is where the LRC student committee comes in, with this year being the first full year we have an active one.
Near the end of this academic year and despite the A.S. budget crisis,” the Legal Resource Center still has ample funding left, which we want to roll over into the 2003-04 budget to fund attorney services for the summer sessions, when security deposit rip-offs are a major tenant problem, and to increase next year’s services, advertising, promotional events and books. But A.S. Executive Director Don Daves-Rougeaux has other plans. He has a “vision” of increasing A.S. presence in I.V., and he sees a satellite I.V. office for LRC as a part of his “vision.”
There is an office available in the I.V. Tenants Union headquarters in I.V. The LRC committee has clearly communicated to Don our opposition to renting out the space for several reasons.
Basically, we would be spending about $10,000-$20,000 of student fees to provide students with another office location for lawyers that they do not even use now. Part of Don’s “vision” is to increase A.S. presence in I.V., but moving LRC to I.V. will not help, as the building is virtually invisible, and splitting our lawyers’ 20 hours per week between the two locations will make us less visible on campus.
Conveniently, Don went to our committee advisers and pushed the issue on them. Our advisers also oppose the idea for fiscal reasons, and because renting space in the IVTU building is not an idea coming from students, nor do students support it.
Even better, now Don suggests creating a universitywide student survey to see if they want to rent this space in I.V. OK, Don, doesn’t the LRC committee represent the students in such cases?
In the remaining weeks of the quarter, the LRC committee will work closely with Don to establish clear committee guidelines, including the roles of Don and the advisers of the committee. The committee members want to increase student autonomy and get out from this pattern of overbearing A.S. executive directors.
Next year, we will be working on exposing the unconstitutionality of parental and landlord notification policies imposed by UCSB and the I.V. Foot Patrol, along with our constant battle for tenant rights in I.V. and elsewhere. By increasing our lock-in fee to $5-$7 a quarter, students could be ensured actual representation by our lawyers in most legal matters. Currently, our lawyers cannot advise students in cases against the university or another UCSB student, but it is not clear if we can convince University Council and the A.S. executive director to remove these restrictions.
Many other student legal services offices at other universities offer the full span of legal representation without any problem – we see no reason why UCSB and A.S. should prohibit our attorneys from providing more than legal education and coaching for self-help legal solutions.
This committee is blazing the trail toward a student government actually represented by the students, and we intend to take all of A.S. with us. If you would like to join us, go into the A.S. office and fill out an application to serve on our committee.
Laura Vlk is the Legal Resource Center Committee chair.