The Associated Students Finance Board allocated $1,200 – more than half of its remaining budget for the quarter – to the newly reinstated A.S. Student Advocate’s Office at its meeting Monday afternoon, also dishing out another $720 to two student groups.
According to the A.S. Legal Code, the student advocate is appointed by the A.S. president and approved by the Legislative Council to assist students who request help in legal matters involving the university. The advocate must also represent students on legal issues when requested to do so. After funding the office, which has been inactive for several years, as well as student group International Convention on Human Rights and the Africa Awareness Student Organization, the board is left with $221.16 for the remainder of the quarter.
President Chaz Whatley said the Student Advocate’s Office was not allocated A.S. funds during the A.S. budget process last winter because the position was not an active A.S. entity at the time. She said the office did not become active until the end of last spring quarter.
The newly appointed A.S. Student Advocate Neil Dipaola said UCSB has been devoid of a functioning student advocate for the past eight years. Dipaola said students are in need of a defense.
“There is no current resource center for students,” Dipaola said. “There is an A.S. Legal Resource Center but they cannot represent students against the university because of a conflict of interest. It’s essentially the student versus the university. You’re sort of at their mercy.”
Dipaola said he modeled the UCSB Student Advocate’s Office after the UC Berkeley office. He said UC Berkeley has a successful student advocate office with nearly 40 caseworkers employed, handling between seven and 11 cases per week. He said the money allocated from Finance Board would help him further reach this goal.
“I want to create a website that students can use as a resource to know what their rights are in the university,” Dipaola said. “I’d also like to hire caseworkers.”
Dipaola said the caseworkers would be volunteers and would not be paid. He requested $1,550 from Finance Board for the creation of a website, printing services, training and advertising. However, Off-Campus Rep. Howie Baker said Dipaola was requesting too much money.
“I feel really bad about leaving nothing for students,” Baker said. “I’d be really dismayed if there was nothing left for students for the rest of the quarter.”
Finance Board member Jacob Thorn also said some of the Student Advocate’s expenses are exorbitant.
“I think it’s too much money and I don’t think a website is necessary,” Thorn said.
However, Whatley said she believes the website is essential to the success of the Student Advocate’s Office.
“I think the website is a good idea because, as it was said before, Neil is only one person, and how can one person stay in contact with 17,000 people?” Whatley said. “It is crucial we have someone on campus advocate for the rights of students because it’s basically the [student’s] word against their professor’s. I think we should give him as much as we can.”
Internal Vice President Adam Graff said the Board should fund Dipaola because the Student Advocate’s office is an A.S. entity and cannot accept private donations.
“It is fully appropriate for us to consider funding his office for the amount requested because he can’t get money anywhere else,” Graff said.
The Board also allocated $450 to Africa Awareness Student Organization’s (AASO) HIV/AIDS fundraiser and $270 to the UCSB chapter of the International Convention on Human Rights (ICHR) for an event featuring guest speaker and former UCSB professor Dr. Kirk Boyd. The AASO fundraiser will be held in Storke Plaza on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and ICHR will host its event Nov. 17 in Embarcadero Hall.