Trends of unfair treatment in fees process

It is vulnerable to those who push their ideologies on funding decisions.

This year, Students for Family Values was tempted to boycott the entire Student Services Fees process. Although we did participate to an extent this year, if this year goes the way last year went, there is no reason for us to keep jumping through the Universityís hoops.

The Southworth Supreme Court decision requires that the University be unbiased in the allocation of Student Services Fees. Viewpoint neutrality and the marketplace of ideas are key parts of this decision.

The University should fulfill its moral obligation to fees-paying students of a full and diverse marketplace of ideas to supplement and enrich their lives.

The University actually is going in the wrong direction when funding a marketplace of ideas. The fees committee recommended zero funding in 2005. Vice Provost Jerry Rinehart changed that recommendation to $5,000, representing a two-thirds cut in funding! Rinehart admitted the funding recommendation was based on a complaint filed against Students for F amily Values by another student group (which was later dismissed as meritless).

This is significant for a number of reasons. First, Rinehartís decision justifies a crippling cut based on a meritless complaint.

Second, there are no viewpoint-neutral criteria to justify funding amounts. The amount of $5,000 was plucked out of the air by the vice provost.

Third, this proves the written rationales do not reflect the real reasons for funding decisions. There is no mention of the dismissed complaint in the majority report of the committee. During the recorded deliberations, one fee committee member suggested that Students for Family Values was a ìcancer” that needed to be cut out. The group was not able to raise these important issues because there was no written appeal process for the 2005-2006 academic year. The fees process is vulnerable to people who wish to impose their ideological agenda on funding decisions. The University acknowledges this but contends that it is only conservatives who are guilty of this.

The first strategy was to put conservatives on the ìadmin” committee rather then the ìgroups” committee. Then, they created stipends to increase the number of applicants in order to exclude conservatives totally from the committee. Instead of creating objective standards that determine initial eligibility and the exact amounts each group will get, the University retained the broken system and focused on individual conservatives.

The viewpoint-neutrality training of fees committee members actually makes matters worse. Despite the cancer comment noted above, the fees committee has been disciplined to watch what it says when making decisions based on viewpoint.

Based on the Universityís track record, we do not think we can expect fair treatment anytime soon. If the fees committee continues to engage in this immoral and unconstitutional behavior, the next phase of the fees process might involve litigation.

Alex Newman is the former president of Students for Family Values. Please send comments to [email protected]