A small price to pay

Sara Macho

Seven bucks can provide helpful legal counseling for students

Sophomore psychology major George Senger and junior political science and applied conflict management major David Sommer used Student Legal Services when they were charged with fourth-degree criminal trespassing when they were caught passed out in the wom

Credit: Beth Rankin

It’s only a tiny blurb on a student’s tuition statement, but the $7 fee for Student Legal Services may one day seem like a life-saver or at least a helpful tool.

Mykol K. Lewis, first year doctoral student in the College of Education, bought a Hewlett-Packard desktop computer from a Wal-Mart in Cleveland Heights in June 2004. She began having problems with the computer in October.

“It froze, it wouldn’t move, and I couldn’t shut it off unless I unplugged it,” Lewis said.

The computer ended up crashing and Lewis lost many valuable documents.

Lewis lost every paper she had written in summer and fall classes, other legal documents, school documents for her daughter, insurance paperwork and manuscript for two books she was writing.

She sent the computer back to Hewlett-Packard three times for repair work. The third time it was returned, the compact disc drawer was broken.

Lewis called the Hewlett-Packard Technical Support hotline for assistance, but encountered more trouble.

“Technical support told me they could only refund me 30 percent. I was like, ‘Excuse me? I don’t think so,’ ” Lewis said.

Lewis decided to consult Student Legal Services because of rude behavior from a technical support associate.

Since its debut in this January, Student Legal Services has helped 132 students with a variety of issues, said Jamison Offineer, paralegal and office administrator.

According to the Schedule of Benefits of Student Legal Services at Kent State, the service strives to assist in handling legal problems most frequently encountered by today’s college student.

Senior staff Attorney Carol Crimi Szabo sent a letter to Hewlett-Packard outlining Lewis’ dilemma. Hewlett-Packard offered 85 percent of the value of the computer or a new computer, Lewis said.

“I already got one piece of crap from you. I don’t want a new piece of crap,” she said.

Lewis is still confused why Hewlett-Packard offered her 85 percent only after she consulted a lawyer.

However, she is satisfied with Student Legal Services.

“For like, what, $7 a semester and I got a refund? It worked out in one shot,” Lewis said.

Szabo was polite, made things easy to understand and helped Lewis receive a $503 check from Hewlett-Packard, Lewis said.

Lewis definitely recommends Student Legal Services to other students.

“Better safe than sorry. I’ll go back,” she said.

But to students like David Sommer, junior applied conflict management and political science major, the $7 isn’t worth it.

In January, he and a friend ventured into downtown around 5 p.m. with a drinking agenda.

When they had their fill, both students realized driving would not be a good idea.

“We drove down and we weren’t going to try and drive wasted back home, and because both of us were completely intoxicated, we decided to walk home on a 12 degree winter night,” Sommer explained.

Dressed only in T-shirts, Sommer and his friend began the frigid hike back to McDowell Hall, Sommer’s place of residence. After battling the arctic air, both students decided to warm up in the Gym Annex.

Sommer and his friend found a bench to rest on and ended up passing out.

They woke up to police officers poking them 12 hours after they headed downtown. “They asked us if we knew where we were at,” Sommer said.

Turns out, both students had passed out in the women’s locker room. A woman had discovered Sommer and his friend and decided to call the police.

Both students had wandered to the opposite side of the Gym Annex on the second floor.

“Neither of us knew how we got there. We both remember walking into the Annex,” Sommer said. “It was just the oddest experience.”

The police wrote up Sommer and his friend for criminal trespassing to the fourth degree, which is “killer on the record,” Sommer said.

Sommer decided a visit to Student Legal Services was necessary.

He wanted to use the service as extra help to ensure nothing more could go wrong.

Both students visited with Szabo. Szabo informed Sommer and his friend to plead not guilty in order to lessen the criminal charge.

Sommer wound up with a $112 fine, 20 hours community service and a lesser charge of fourth degree disorderly conduct.

Sommer admits he was shocked at the results.

“When she first came out, I was like, ‘You did not just come out with completely nothing,’” he explained. “I had faith she could not screw up, even if she were the worst lawyer in the world.”

Sommer said his charge is usually for people with a criminal record, which he does not have. As a result, Sommer doesn’t think using Student Legal Services was worth his time.

“It was a whole bunch of extra time that I could have probably spent doing something else. It was worth a try, but I won’t use it again if I ever get in trouble,” he said.

Using Student Legal Services is a gamble, but with different cases it may be useful, Sommer said.

Tom Gray, senior justice studies major, would consult Student Legal Services again.

During winter break, Gray and two of his friends were walking back from a downtown bar and starting throwing snowballs at each other. They also threw some at random passers-by.

After an angry phone call to the police, Gray and his friends were charged with disorderly conduct. Gray visited with Student Legal Services soon after.

After meeting with a judge in Kent, Gray and his friends received 16 hours of community service, paid $67 in court costs and were fined $105. Gray’s community service includes maintenance upkeep at Brady Lake.

Gray said he was “impressed” with Student Legal Services’ punctuality and friendliness. He would recommend it to other students.

“If I didn’t have that, I’d probably be representing myself, and it wouldn’t have turned out very well,” Gray said. “I’m sure they would have taken advantage of me.”

Contact features reporter Sara Macho at [email protected].