Court to judge student fees use

Rebecca Czaplewski

In a move that will most likely affect the future of the University’s mandatory student services fees, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether state universities can make students fund organizations with political or ideological values with which they disagree.
The Supreme Court decided to review a 1995 case against the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in which students targeted 18 fees-receiving groups on the campus because of their political nature. When the case was initially tried, the courts ruled that students could decide not to pay a portion of the fee to a group to which they object.
Although the court decided Monday to review the case, Elizabeth Rindskof Parker, general counsel for the University of Wisconsin, said the case will not go before the court until next fall, with a decision estimated to be made in spring 2000.
Susan Ullman, the assistant attorney general for the University of Wisconsin, said university officials were excited by the court’s decision.
“We’re very pleased,” she said. “This matter deserves the Supreme Court’s attention.”
The Wisconsin case is similar to a current case against the University of Minnesota. The case targets three fees-receiving student groups: La Raza Student Cultural Center, University Young Women and the Queer Student Cultural Center.
In February 1998, five students sued the University, alleging that the three groups supported the Communist regime in Cuba, encouraged abortion and championed the homosexual lifestyle, respectively.
Arguments for the University’s case are set to begin this summer. University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said he doesn’t believe that Monday’s decision will alter the scheduling of the University’s case.
However, Rotenberg said the Supreme Court’s decision will very likely affect the outcome of the University’s case.
“The federal judges who hear our case will consider this case to be highly instructive, if not controlling of our case,” he said.
Patricia Logue, an attorney representing the three University groups, said the decision from the Wisconsin case will most likely affect the University’s current case.
Since both sides argue First Amendment violation, Logue said the Supreme Court decision will determine how the University’s case will go.
“This is an area of substantial legal uncertainty, and this shows it,” Rotenberg said.
Nikki Kubista, president of the Minnesota Student Association, said she was happy with the decision and how it will potentially affect the University.
“We have an obligation to look at what free speech is on campus,” Kubista said.