Associated Students Inc. President Lizbeth Velasquez has proposed a plan to provide free legal services for economically challenged students.
Velasquez’s idea for a legal clinic at Long Beach State began when she had an internship with AmeriCorps at the Long Beach Courthouse. Through the internship, she saw first-hand how many community members needed legal advice and not just legal education.
“I, and others saw the need for students on this campus to access legal advice and began to brainstorm how this would look on our campus,” Velasquez said.
Her announcement at convocation for a free legal clinic on campus came just after the California State University system announced it would be providing attorneys for dreamers at all CSU campuses.
CSULB will be provided with two attorneys and two paralegals in the Dream Success Center to aid undocumented students with legal advice due to the new CSU program.
“Our idea is similar in the sense we would be aiming to help folks who cannot afford legal representation, making it accessible to them on campus,” Velasquez said.
The difference between the legal help that ASI plans to provide and the CSU system is that the services will not come from the Chancellor’s office and it will address many other issues.
Velasquez said issues that would be covered through her plan’s legal representation would include unlawful detainers, name changes, protection orders, paternity and child custody, marriage dissolution and more.
ASI issued student surveys, and the responses showed that students expressed a need for these types of services.
Some concerns students have with the idea is how much it would cost. Crystal Kem, a third-year member of the ASI Beach Events team, said she doesn’t know if these legal services are worth it if it will cause tuition to increase.
“If it’s going to be taken from the tuition money that [already] goes towards ASI, then I think it’s a great idea,” Kem said. “College is expensive and I think if CSULB can provide affordable and helpful services to students its a good thing in my book.”
This plan is in the early stages of development but Velasquez said that ASI envisions providing pro-bono attorneys. ASI hasn’t determined the cost of these services and where the funding will come from yet.
Despite not having a clear direction on where the funding is going to come from, Velasquez said that she and the rest of ASI are excited about this project. Her goal is to make this dream a reality during her time as president as well as a and long-lasting service.