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Law Students Vote on Input

Referendum Calls for Student Board to Help With Funding

By Emily M. Bernstein

Law School students are voting this week on a referendum that calls for student input in allocating funding for extracurricular organizations, said leaders of the Law School Council which is sponsoring the referendum.

While Dean of Students Mary D. Upton now has sole responsibility for distributing $50,000 each year to student groups, the referendum proposes that a board, made up of five students, one faculty member and Upton, would allocate the funds and hear appeals on funding decisions.

The referendum was designed to gauge student opinion, leaders of the Council said. If the referendum garners substantial support, Council members will negotiate the specifics of the new system with Law School administrators before the proposal reaches Dean of the Law School James Vorenberg, who will make the final decision.

Vorenberg was not available for comment yesterday, but Vice Dean David Smith said Vorenberg told the Council in the fall that "in principle the idea of student involvement in the allocation process would be acceptable to him."

The Council proposed student input to to combat "a misperception among many students that funds are sometimes arbitrarily refused or granted," said William A. Sarraille, Council president and a first-year student. "I don't think that perception is going to change until students have input into the decision-making process, and that process isn't a mystery."

Upton, who will be leaving her post in June, said she had approved of student input in the decision-making process "from the very beginning." She said she told two Council members last fall that she would draw up a proposal with them to submit to Vorenberg.

Two weeks ago the Council sent a copy of the referendum and an explanatory letter to 100 student leaders, asking them to respond if they objected. Sarraille said he received only one negative response.

Verna L. Williams, a second-year law student and president of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), said she wrote a letter to Sarraille saying that she opposed the referendum and encouraged all members of BLSA to vote against it.

Williams said it seemed that the system would "operate more arbitrarily and capriciously than it does now," under the new proposal.

"Students who are going to graduate may not be concerned with the impact their decision may have on a organization down the road," Williams said. "Also, in the future we might have students sitting on the board who are not very tolerant of diverse student organizations."

Ron von Lembke, a second-year student and head of the Veterans Association at the Law School, said the Veterans oppose the Council's proposal because they are satisfied with the current system.

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