Group vows to fight fees rejection

Campus Republicans was among several groups ruled ineligible for University student fees.

by Jens Krogstad

The fees committee denied four student groups’ applications last week because of requirements for fees-receiving groups, and at least one group is vowing to fight the decision.

Campus Republicans were denied funding because of a University rule prohibiting student fees from funding partisan groups.

The Student Brian Boru Irish Pipe Band and Interdisciplinary Transportation Student Organization were denied access to the fees divvying process because they have not been active for more than a year.

Students for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is still applying to be a student group; the fees committee has also ruled it ineligible to receive funds because it is not registered.

Dan Nelson, president of Campus Republicans, said his group will fight the rule, which also excluded the University DFL from receiving student fees.

“We’re definitely not going to sit back and do nothing,” he said. “Campus Republicans believes this rule to be unconstitutional.”

He said he first plans to talk with the University in hopes that officials recognize the regulation as discriminatory and reverse it.

Fees adviser Aaron Asmundson said the group might be eligible for student fees next year if it wants to address voters’ rights and issues under a different name.

“A nonprofit organization can’t give money to a partisan group or political party,” he said.

Nelson said his group decided to apply for student fees because they planned to expand and offer students more services.

He said the group is bringing political commentator David Horowitz to speak this month, and it plans to add office space and a monthly newsletter.

Nelson said a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling forced the University of Wisconsin to fund partisan groups.

A 7th District Court of Appeals decision in Wisconsin two years later expanded the previous ruling, he said, and prohibited the university from denying funds to partisan or religious groups and groups that are relatively young.

In the decision, the district court ruled that using the duration and past funding amounts of a student group to determine future funding violates viewpoint neutrality – the ability to ignore a group’s political or religious affiliation when allocating fees.

Because the university did not allow funding of politically partisan or religious groups until recently, it discriminated against less popular viewpoints.

Eric Forsgren, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh student legal services attorney, said the Campus Republicans make an excellent case.

“They should certainly be considered for funding,” he said. “Anything that has a chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas is not good.”

He said the case for the group seems clear-cut, but because

students’ money is involved, it changes the dynamic of the

case and could make it more complex.

“Viewpoint neutrality,” Forsgren said, “that’s the bottom line; that’s the guts of this case.”