Student Legal Assistance on the ballet

By Kristin Nikonetz

The Students’ Union has passed a motion which will place a referendum question on the next student’s union election ballot. The question will ask whether students are willing to pay a 75 cent increase for fall and winter semesters and a 50 cent charge for spring and summer semesters to Student Legal Assistance.

On Tuesday night at Student Legislative Council, Nic Porco and Oliver Bladek tried to get the 75 cent increase lowered to 50 cents, but failed. The number that will appear on the ballot will be $1.75 for fall and winter semesters per student and 50 cents for spring and summer semesters per student.

Nic Porco, SU Academic Commissioner thinks their Þgures may be a little off. "I don’t necessarily agree with their numbers, and I think some of their projections are little low in terms of their budget. I want them to be sure of what they need. I would support a 50 cent increase at most."

The original request of a dollar increase was based on SLA’s fear of having insufficient funds for summer clinic, which hires law faculty students over the summer to work for them as their summer job, which would effects the students and members of the Calgary community who have low incomes who need legal counsel.

"Right now we have a deÞcit of over $25,000," said Shelly Szabo, director of SLA. "We do have some carry-over from last year, [so] we are certainty not at the point of closing our doors. But that amount of money from those cutbacks is severely affecting us. It’s almost like a snowball affect."

"If we jumped from one dollar to two dollars, we would be supporting 43 per cent [of their costs], which I don’t feel is [put toward] to student cases," agreed Matt Lauzon, SU vice-president Operations and Finance. "Their budget shows they might have a problem in a couple of years. I think they should come to students when they really need money."

The SLA said their sources of funding are drying up. They used to be able to rely on funding from the Alberta Law Foundation, Student Career Placement, Science and Technology Exchange Program and casinos.

But since SKIP and STEP programs received more publicity, it has become difficult to get from them. According to Szabo, more U of C students are using SLA, which increases the time and paper-work required from SLA, making money tight.

Oliver Ho, SU Events Commissioner, thinks SLA is justiÞed in asking for an increase, as long as students are only paying for the portion of services that they use.

"They’ve been questioned about providing [services] to non-students. I think when students are being asked to support a portion of services that students themselves can access, it’s that they support that portion."

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