UPUA planning legal services clinic

August 17, 2008

University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) President Gavin Keirans revealed formative plans for a legal services clinic in partnership with the Dickinson School of Law Saturday during the Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS) conference.

The proposed legal clinic would fill a void in the university that has been missing since former legal adviser Jose Texidor was not retained in the position due to budget constraints. Texidor, who is a senior lecturer in the Crime, Law, and Justice department, gave free legal advice to students but did not represent them in court.

"When I talked with the dean of the law school, I said my timetable might be optimistic, and he said we have to be careful about how we do this but we can be very aggressive," Keirans (junior-business administration) said. "So it seems that from the law school side of it that they’re on board, and we just need to continue to work to nail that home."

While the discussions are still in a very early stage, it is possible the project could move forward quickly and be operating in some form by the spring semester of this academic year.

The rest of the day at the ABTS conference was highlighted by a lecture from Adam Kissel of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

His talk centered on the prevalence of unconstitutional restrictions within the speech and personal conduct codes of many major universities, as well as unconstitutional restrictions on rights of assembly. He urged the assembled student government leaders to be proactive in fighting these unconstitutional limitations in order to prevent students from being unfairly oppressed.

"Protecting individual rights for students is something that is a testament to the human mind and human spirit," Kissel said. "You can draw a line in the sand."

The decision was made to cut the Sunday morning session of the conference and finish Saturday, which meant that the election of an ABTS executive director and any legislation would be heard before Sunday.

Brad Tran, treasurer for the Illinois Student Senate, won the position of executive director. Kyle Dysarz, the Michigan State Student Assembly vice chairperson for external affairs, won the assistant executive director position.

The only legislation heard before the assembled delegates came from Penn State’s UPUA.

The group passed a resolution that confirmed its progress as a democratic representative for the student body and its aims to continue growing in that regard. The resolution also included the group’s desire for an expanded budget.

"It talked about the direction we’re going in, and how we’ve made some positive steps," Keirans said. "The steps necessary to be an effective student government will continue."

Keirans was pleased with the how the conference went, despite the relatively small turnout; only four schools were represented.

"It was more of an intimate group, but I felt like that even added to the conference," he said. ""It was really focused, a lot of strong relationships developed, and we were able to talk more and form a closer bond."