The University of Wisconsin’s student government finance group denied allegations of viewpoint discrimination against a multicultural student group Friday at a Student Judiciary hearing.
After a decision to minimally fund the Multicultural Student Coalition, members of the Associated Students of Madison Student Judiciary heard MCSC’s appeal accusing ASM Student Services Finance Committee of a viewpoint neutrality violation.
SSFC voted in December to give MCSC minimum funding. This $10,600 budget was meant to account for only basic supplies, student hourly wages and office space, SSFC representatives said.
At the hearing Friday, SSFC denied allegations concerning the viewpoint neutrality violation, but admitted to a procedural violation. Viewpoint neutrality, as defined by ASM, means a “funding decision cannot be based on a group’s point of view.”
Members of SSFC said the body awarded MCSC minimum funding because the organization had not met the requirements for their requested budget. According to Student Judiciary Chief Justice Nick Checker, ASM Committee on Student Organization and SSFC found MCSC intentionally violated university policy last year by submitting retroactive contracts.
SSFC denied MCSC funding last year, but Interim Chancellor David Ward remanded the decision to Student Council, which then approved MCSC’s eligibility by a single vote. SSFC then imposed a 52-week budget freeze on MCSC because of the unauthorized contract with Franklin, Checker added.
Along with the inaccurate definition of a viewpoint neutrality violation, MCSC claimed minimal funding is an injustice and ASM bylaws are “extremely corrupt.”
Checker noted MCSC has argued the past few years ASM systematically discriminates against students of color and minority interest groups.
“One of their arguments is there is a conspiracy by student government leaders who are trying to undermine these student organizations that have these minority viewpoints,” Checker said. “That’s the crux of the viewpoint neutrality argument: that SSFC and the student government is out to get them.”
SSFC Chair Ellie Bruecker said she does not see any validity to this argument. She noted SSFC regularly grants budget eligibility to social justice groups or groups representing minority interests while also denying funding from other groups unrelated to these issues.
“Our rules apply equally and across the board to everyone,” Buecker said. “I see very little basis to that claim.”
SSFC responded there was no viewpoint neutrality violation and they made known ahead of time there were only two options of funding available: minimum funding or a budget if the group demonstrates it is deserving.
In regards to minimum funding, SSFC Chair Ellie Breucker said she recognized she made a “human mistake” by forgetting to announce the amount of the minimum budget a week in advance.
MCSC said it was inherently wrong to not announce this amount, and that by not announcing it, SSFC made a procedural violation, preventing SSFC voters to be able to properly make a decision without knowing exactly what they were voting for.
Later Friday evening, ASM released a notice about the MCSC appeal hearing and said within the next 10 business days the Student Judiciary will release a decision regarding the appeal.
Checker said Student Judiciary will decide on one of four options within these 10 days.
“The potential remedies are that we could remand decision to SSFC to hear it again.” Checker said. “The second option would be to remand it to the chancellor to review the decision. Another possibility would be sending the decision to Student Council. The final option would be just to let the decision of SSFC stand at the minimum funding level.”
Noah Goetzel contributed to this report.
Clarification: The original publication said: “According to Student Judiciary Chief Justice Nick Checker, MCSC intentionally violated university policy last year by contracting Michael Franklin, who was fired by UW.” We updated the article with the appropriate changes.