Weekend conference tackles free speech, student fees

Rebecca Czaplewski

With the fate of the University’s student services fees in limbo, Coffman Union will house a two-day conference focusing on the rights and importance of student organizations.
The conference, entitled “Demokracy Projekt,” takes place Friday and Saturday and is organized by the Coalition for Free Speech and supported by nine student organizations.
The first of what organizers hope will become an annual event, the conference is free to University students and will feature workshops and speakers.
Keynote speaker Nancy ‘Rusty’ Barcelo”, associate vice president for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said the conference will be important for students in all organizations on campus, regardless if they are in groups cited by the student fees lawsuit.
Three fees-receiving organizations have been targeted in a lawsuit brought about by five University students who question the allocation of mandatory student services fees to groups which promote differing political and ideological views.
“A discussion needs to take place to see how the lawsuit could affect all students,” Barcelo said.
The Coalition for Free Speech began planning the conference in November. The two-day event will cost the group around $10,000, which has been funded through grants from several student organizations and Coca-Cola.
Jason Ruiz, a co-founder of the event, hopes the two days will promote student activism on campus by educating attendees on various topics, such as leadership development, media skills and cultural programming.
Ruiz stressed that, because of student services fees, any student can be a part of any organization, just as anyone can attend the conference.
“We’re a huge university, but we all give to the organizations so we can all utilize them,” Ruiz said. “It’s yours, a part of the University that you paid for.”