At the previous Ohio University Graduate Student Senate meeting, the body began a conversation about hiring a legal consultant for international, immigrant and undocumented students through either Student Legal Services or International Student and Faculty Services. 

Since then, immigration lawyer Ken Robinson has visited campus to inform students about changes to immigration policies since President Donald Trump was elected into office. 

Student Senate has also passed a resolution identical to GSS's. Ellenore Holbrook, Graduate Student Representative for Student Senate and Treasurer for the Board of the Center of Student Legal Services, sponsored the resolution.

“Currently, the Board of the Center for Student Legal Services is still addressing the topic and nothing has been solidified,” Holbrook said in an email. “The main issue is that our lawyers cannot legally represent international students when it comes to international or immigration law.” 

Holbrook also stated that although students can be represented in issues such as landlord disputes, tax problems or criminal procedures. They cannot, however, legally represent them in court. 

A possible solution Holbrook suggested was developing a database of lawyers who can communicate with students over the phone so they do not have to travel to Columbus. 

“That was why having an international lawyer available on campus for students was discussed and still being pushed for, so students have more direct access to legal advice from an international lawyer,” Holbrook said.

Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones said she was excited about the prospect of hiring a legal consultant for international students. 

"Maybe not a full-time immigration attorney because I think the stats are telling us we probably won’t need a full-time one, but we definitely need to contract with an attorney on behalf of our students so (they) can, at least twice a month, have access to an immigration attorney" Hall-Jones said.

On Sept. 28, OU’s Graduate Employee Organization protested outside of Baker Center. Members had four central demands directed at OU, which they said does not measure up to peer institutions in terms of fees for international students and health insurance fees. 

One of these demands was that OU provide legal support for international students. In a report GEO released about university working conditions, the organization outlines three peer universities that offer legal service for international students. Those universities are Iowa State University, Oregon State University, and Colorado State University

“All three provide this service through their Student Legal Services, so the service is not directly provided by the university, but by an external group,” Elliot Long, co-president for GEO and a sponsor for GSS’s resolution, said in an email. “This is why we were looking to Student Legal Services to provide this service for our students at Ohio University.”

GEO highlighted Colorado State University’s model for providing this service for international students. Colorado State University hired two experienced immigration lawyers, Cristina Steele-Kaplan and Penny Gonzales-Soto, to advise students in the area of immigration law. 

GEO encouraged either Student Legal Services or ISFS to “contract with local or nearby immigration lawyers to provide services to students once a month.”

“There are still many discussions to be had on how to move forward to ensure our international students are well represented in court if they need to address any international law or legal changes,” Holbrook said.

@juIaphant

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