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Legal Services dispute up for vote on Sunday

Voting on a new model for Student Legal Services will occur at the upcoming Student Senate meeting on Sunday, Nov. 6. During last Sunday’s meeting, two new models were introduced by the unit of Judicial Affairs Chair Brennan Pouliot, Student Body President Jonathan Dean and Student Body Vice President Carley Rotenberg.

After the proposal was introduced, a Q&A and general comment session was held. According to Dean, Student Senate did not vote on the proposals last Sunday in order to allow adequate understanding about the proposed models and to hear opinions, questions or concerns from the community.

“The meeting this past Sunday brought out a lot of questions,” Dean said.

Currently the attorney in place costs the undergraduate student body $88,000 per year. This cost comes from the Student Senate budget, which is funded through the Student Activity Fee. The attorney represents students on both civil and criminal issues, with various restrictions. For one example, the attorney cannot represent students against the university. In regard to civil crimes, the attorney can represent $5,000 worth of damages and when it comes to criminal law, students can only be represented on lower class misdemeanors.

The three models that were proposed on Sunday all differ in in how they’re designed; each offers a variety of services for students and each cost a different sum. The first new model proposed is to simply remove the current system, however, this is not to be confused with the act of removing Student Legal Services entirely. Rather, the position of the student attorney would be cut and students would have access to a preferred list of attorneys that can potentially represent them. This model would also include what Dean calls a “revamp” of the webpage in order to help students make the right decision when it comes to legal matters.

The second model is more costly than the first, though it’s still cheaper than funding the attorney. The model calls for removing the attorney, but providing an advisor for students. The advisor’s role would be to help students outline their legal problems. With this model, the list of attorneys mentioned above would also still be provided and placed in various areas where students may need it.

According to Dean, the third and last proposal is to default back to the current model. Though, if someone were to propose another model, it would be considered.

“This is not necessarily removing Student Legal Services. We will always have some type of help,” Dean said. According to him, this help, at a minimum, would be the first proposed model.

“Nobody in Student Senate knows what you are thinking unless you express it to us,” Dean said. “This is an interesting discussion and students fall in all different places.”  According to him, there needs to be as much knowledge as possible in order for a decision to be made.

“I’m still evaluating student opinion on this and I would encourage anyone to come to the meeting on Sunday,” Dean said.

Dean welcomes anyone who would like to meet or email him with any questions or concerns regarding the issue to do so, and also encourages them to attend next Sunday’s senate meeting.

UNH’s current Student Legal Services attorney is contracted until Dec. 31, and if one of the two new models is passed, it would go into effect starting Jan. 1.

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