Originally published in The Statesman (March 21, 2011)
A national conservative organization, the Young Americans for Freedom, is threatening legal action against the Undergraduate Student Government, or USG, for not having a viewpoint neutral allocation of the student activity fee.
The YAF, which applied for funding last fall under the new Special Services Council, was denied because they were too similar to the College Republicans. And Under the New Club Funding Act, which was passed last fall, a club can not repeat the mission statement of another.
“USG has very strict requirements as to how clubs and organizations can get funding,” said Casey Mattox, legal council for the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative organization that is defending YAF.
Requirements that he says can discriminate against unpopular or controversial groups.
“You could say we want to form a communist group on campus and at one point no one would want to have put their name down,” Mattox said.
In a letter to USG President Matthew Graham and Dean Jerrold Stein, YAF asked that USG and the university change these funding procedures and cited standing precedent in three court cases.
One case, Amidon v. Student Assembly of the State University of N.Y. at Albany, states that the schools system for allocating funds to student clubs violated the First Amendment.
At Albany, students needed to get 15 percent of the student body to sign a petition or a two-thirds vote of the senate to fund a club.
The court said this failed to ensure viewpoint neutrality because it created a risk that some clubs could be discriminated against.
Mattox went on to say that the duplication of services also does not stand up to viewpoint neutrality.
“We have been in communication with the student government and are hopeful that they will be making changes,” Mattox said. “But we are prepared to take legal action.”
USG has made some changes. The Senate went into Executive Session, during Thursday’s senate meeting to discuss “proposed/pending legislation” for about 40 minutes. USG’s legal council was given speaking rights during this time.
When the Senate exited its Executive Session, they brought to question the New Student Club Policies and Procedures Act, which repeals the acts YAF had brought up.
“Because of the YAF issue, our legal council has been overlooking the laws and it was a recommendation to change it because it could be construed as discrimination,” Graham said. “It was decided that the petitioning process would be in violation of new club funding.”
The New Club Eligibility Act and New Club Funding Act were both approved with some revisions. The Special Services Council Bylaws remained the same.
USG took out the 5 percent petition process that YAF cited. In addition, there were amendments made to the act that struck any reference to a clubs duplication of services.
The act was passed, 15-2-0 and took effect immediately.
According to Graham, the consensus of the senators was that SSC will be looking at YAF again for funding.