Two student groups seek legal defense

Max Rust

Two of the three student groups named in the recent lawsuit against the University’s Board of Regents announced Tuesday they are taking legal steps to look out for their interests.
Members of both the Queer Student Cultural Center and University YW said they will file an intervention in the student services fees lawsuit.
If approved by a federal judge, the intervention would make the groups equal parties in the lawsuit. That is, the groups would have a say in any settlement reached between the regents and the five student plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit about three weeks ago.
“We’re different organizations. We’re not the University and the University is not us,” said Megan Thomas, administrative coordinator for the Queer Student Cultural Center. “The University does not have the exact same interests that we do.”
The plaintiffs, who described themselves as sincere Christians, stated in the lawsuit their First Amendment rights are being violated because they are required to pay student services fees. The quarterly fees are: 48 cents to La Raza Student Cultural Center, 24 cents to the Queer Student Cultural Center, and 32 cents to the University YW.
The students maintain in the suit that the fees “force them to fund viewpoints contradicting the viewpoints their personal beliefs compel them to advocate.”
Members of the Queer Student Cultural Center signed a retainer agreement with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a national group for gay and lesbian rights. The agreement states that the fund will represent the center in the lawsuit.
Although officials from the University YW haven’t signed an agreement with any legal group, they might be filing a joint intervention with the Queer Student Cultural Center, Thomas said.
“We want to make sure that if any decisions were made, that there would be student input,” said Robyn Dettling, a collective member from University YW. “This isn’t just an attack on us as an organization, it’s really an attack on the fees structure. We don’t want any decisions to be made changing the fees structure without student input.”
Jordan Lorence, the lawyer representing the five student plaintiffs, said he wasn’t surprised by the intervention announcement.
“I was anticipating this,” he said. But Lorence said the groups are incorrectly viewing the lawsuit as an attack on them, and not as a First Amendment issue.
“Do we want a situation in a free society, where the government can force people to fund other private groups as the price to attend a state university?” he asked.