Fee detractors should take a hike

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 7, 2007 Ed Cartoon

At tonight’s council meeting the University Students’ Council will table a motion to add $1.25 to the existing $3.50 student fee for Western’s Community Legal Services. The program offers free legal services from volunteer law students under the supervision of lawyers. The service is provided for students and individuals with low incomes in London.

The service requests more money from the USC because it hasn’t received a funding increase since 1991 even though CLS’s student clientele rose from 15 to 38 per cent of its total clientele in the last five years. Without more funding, the program’s quality will suffer.

University Students’ Council President Fab Dolan says unless Western students directly benefit from an increase in student fees, he is wary of supporting any increase.

Not every student will require legal services during their university career, but CLS also informs individuals of their basic rights, offers legal seminars for the community, and e-mails Western students about issues requiring attention. The program benefits students ranging from those requiring legal representation to those needing advice on landlord problems.

Community Legal Services shouldn’t be neglected on the grounds that it doesn’t directly benefit every student. Students already pay countless fees for services they don’t actively participate in or directly benefit from.

Law students also benefit directly from the program, gaining practical experience while helping their peers or those who can’t afford legal counsel.

Furthermore, the increase in student fees will benefit a program comprised entirely of volunteers. The money won’t pay for inflated lawyer salaries; it will go directly into the program and benefit students who use the service.

Though Londoners outside Western also benefit from CLS, it’s good for Western in the long run to engage the community and establish a warmer and more stable partnership, especially considering pro-bono legal services run scarce in the city. Doing so is good publicity for the school and will help repair the damaged relationship between Western students and the London community.

When CLS’s motion is brought forward tonight, USC councillors should fulfill their duties and speak for students, 330 of whom received legal services from CLS last year alone, along with many others who benefited from articles, seminars and e-mails.

While the USC is a corporation and must consider finances, it should recognize CLS’ direct and tangible benefits to students and London instead of seeking another way to save a handful of pocket change.

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