Being the resident assistant for the Los Alamitos dorm will no longer be junior political science major Yasmeen Gardner’s only job on campus.
Associated Students, Inc. executives voted Wednesday to make Gardner the new public defender for students.
According to ASI bylaws, a public defender is responsible for defending any CSULB student against disciplinary action brought by ASI, as well as calling to attention any unfair practices that may exist on campus.
“I’m going to be talking to people and telling them, ‘This is [what] a public defender [is], can you use my help?’” Gardner said.
Gardner will also have the power to subpoena any student to appear in court and work with students looking to impeach ASI officials.
“For myself, I always have to keep in mind that what I’m doing is never a personal vendetta against them,” Gardner said. “I think that that’s what’s going to be important as a public defender because maybe if my client tells me something that I don’t like… my obligation is to always defend and protect them… I think that mindset is going to help me a lot in this position.”
Gardner has been involved with the Mock Trial club at CSULB for the past two years.
She said that she has wanted to be a lawyer since her junior year of high school when she participated in a Pathways to Law program and Mock Trial.
“We have little placards in our halls that say things like: who’s your favorite superhero? And I’m like: Olivia Benson,” Gardner said. “I’ve been watching [Law & Order: Special Victims Unit] since middle school, so I realized I was already fascinated with that whole process.”
Still unsure of the field she wants to focus on, Gardner plans to continue on to law school after graduating from CSULB.
She said that she hopes to help be a bridge for ASI to have more connections in the dorm community.
Miriam Hernandez, ASI vice president, broke a tie in the public defender election by voting for Gardner over sophomore Vrinda Bhuta. One of the reasons Hernandez chose Gardner was due to the fact that she is an RA.
“I think Yasmeen would do an excellent job, [what] with being a RA,” Hernandez said. “I feel like because she’s there with the students all the time, we need that. We need that liaison between housing and ASI, since we don’t have any communication with them, and I think she would be perfect for that.”
Gardner said that the public defender position has not been very busy in past years due to the fact that not many students know that they have someone available to help them.
“I just want to let people know that, please never hesitate to call me, email me, whatever, because I’m only here for other people and that’s the best experience I’m going to get, by helping others,” Gardner said. “So, I need some cases, so I can get some experience and defend them to the best of my ability.”