The Center for Student Legal Services (CSLS) is planning to raise the student legal fee so the center can assist international students with legal issues while they are studying at Ohio University.
The fee would increase from $12 per semester to $15 per semester in the renewal contract for the center. CSLS Managing Attorney Pat McGee said the increase is needed because the center is at the point that its expenses are exceeding its income.
Since the renewal contract has already been approved by the budget committee, the OU Board of Trustees will vote to approve the contract in March.
“The main thing right now is that we decided that with the raise of the fee to $15 per student, if we have the ability to do so, what we proposed was to have a fund where we could assist international students in obtaining consultations with immigration law specialists,” McGee said.
OU administrators believe CSLS does a great job representing the overall student population. At this time, administrators feel like international students have a particular need for legal representation, McGee said.
The only court system in Ohio that handles immigration law issues is in Cleveland, so it’s difficult to legally represent international students in Athens. Even if CSLS helps an international student get a case dismissed or solved here in Athens, the student could still be in trouble with immigration authorities elsewhere for the same dismissed issue.
“We hope to be able to find a particular firm or several firms that we could contract with (on issues involving international students),” McGee said.
CSLS would also like to attend more conferences and put more energy into expanding its knowledge on the implications of international students.
“Any of us international students could go to the webpage of the government and try to understand all the laws that they have for when you aren’t a citizen,” Carla Consolini, a master’s student from Argentina, said. “But there is so much information and so much legal lingo.”
Consolini said it would be good to have someone who could understand her questions in simpler terms and who could help her fully understand the law.
McGee said some of the most common things international students come to the center for is landlord-tenant issues, asking questions about investing, work issues and visa and/or passport issues.
Consolini said, that in Argentina, housing isn’t regulated the way it is in the U.S., and one time she got in a situation where it was difficult for her landlord not to charge her for something she would be unable to pay for.
“I have always paid for it, mainly I am really afraid, and this is probably something I brought from Argentina, of landlords and leases,” Consolini said.
Tim Ryan, a lieutenant at the Ohio University Police Department, said international students don’t get in trouble with law enforcement very often. When they do, it is usually over traffic laws. Ryan said he likes the idea of an educational program for international students.
Consolini said anyone who goes to Argentina can get a work permit and international ID within a few days as long as they take their birth certificate, passport or state or government ID they.
“Here it is a little more difficult than that. I am not saying one is better than the other because they both have their pros and cons, but that is something that I didn’t know much about,” Consolini said.
International students studying at OU are not allowed to work outside of the university or work more than 20 hours per week. Consolini said she did not know much about that until traveling to the U.S. She works as a Spanish teaching assistant and is in the English Language Improvement Program Graduate Writing Lab.
“The department gave its own orientation on how to be teaching assistants and how to not only be a teaching assistant but how to be one in the U.S. and that was really useful,” Consolini said. “That is something that needs to happen university wide.”