Student Association

Evangelista discusses purpose of Student Legal Services, Inc. board

Zach Barlow | Staff Photographer

SLS provides free legal services to students of Syracuse University and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, according to its website.

Student Association President Eric Evangelista on Monday discussed his discovery of a board consisting partially of SA members that is supposed to advise Student Legal Services, Inc.

During SA’s assembly meeting Monday night in Maxwell Auditorium, Evangelista said the board is supposed to be comprised of SA’s president and comptroller and Graduate Student Organization’s president and comptroller. The SA bylaws state the SLS board should include SA’s president, comptroller and three at-large members. SLS provides free legal services to students of Syracuse University and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, according to its website.

The board was meant to meet regularly with SLS, but Evangelista said he only learned about the existence of the board three weeks ago. He gave an update Monday on SLS’s budget, though some of the discussion was kept private.

Evangelista said that it was his understanding that the board’s only restriction was to pass SLS’s budget. SLS requested $300,000 in funding from SA to cover its operating costs, which included $80,000 to pay the salaries of attorneys to help students navigate legal services, he said.

But Evangelista said SLS does not collect billable hours. Most lawyers keep billable hours, a time sheet that details the amount of work a lawyer does for a client, he said.

Because SLS does not collect billable hours, it is difficult to know exactly what services SLS provides, he added.

Evangelista said there was pushback from other members of the board when he requested that SLS impose billable hours. He said the sense he got from other members of the board was that they didn’t believe it was their responsibility to ask SLS to take billable hours.

“The fact that they didn’t provide billable hours to myself or other individuals who were present at this meeting was unusual and something that we took great issue with,” Evangelista said.

Evangelista said SLS is supposed to be a free, student-centric volunteer service funded by the SA and GSO budgets. A salary of $80,000 was high for a service of this sort, he added.

“It’s not supposed to be a big payday,” he said.

The two attorneys who work for SLS also operate in private practice and have other sources of income, Evangelista said.

Evangelista added that SLS gave him the number of students they met with, but it was unclear the services they provided or the number of hours they spent working with students.

“We just felt that there was no accountability,” he said.

After Evangelista’s announcement, members of the assembly asked to view the proposed SLS budget.

Evangelista said he would discuss the budget with the assembly on the condition that the meeting went into an executive session. He said SLS requested the specifics of the budget be kept private from the university’s viewing because SLS is sometimes called upon to represent students in litigation against the university.

Only SA members, officers and invited individuals are allowed to be present during an executive session, according to the SA bylaws.

After non-SA members were allowed to return to Maxwell Auditorium, Evangelista said the executive session was “productive.”


Other business

Evangelista announced that for the 2017-18 academic year, tuition will increase 3.9 percent, the cost of housing will increase 2.5 percent, the health and wellness fee would increase 2 percent and the co-curricular fee would increase 2 percent.

Financial aid will increase 6 percent, he added. The increases were due to inflationary costs, not additional programming, Evangelista said.

SA also proposed the “Quorum Lowering Bill,” which would remove assembly members with “acceptable but permanently excused absences” from the total of assembly members counted towards quorum. These absences would include class and work, according to the bill.

The bill would retain the requirement that a majority of membership plus one be present at assembly meetings to vote on proposed legislation. But assembly members who miss meetings because of class and work conflicts would not count towards the majority of membership.

SA has failed to meet quorum multiple times during the 60th Legislative Session.


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