The student government’s main judiciary body ruled in favor of the Associated Students of Madison’s financial branch in multiple cases this weekend.
Student Judiciary heard allegations from Multicultural Student Coalition and Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow that the Student Services Finance Committee violated viewpoint neutrality earlier this month, however sided against the student organizations.
According to the SJ decision, MCSC filed a viewpoint neutrality complaint against the financial committee after SSFC minimally funded MCSC.
MCSC failed to provide any evidence viewpoint neutrality was violated, SJ Chief Justice Nicholas Checker said in an email to The Badger Herald.
However, the SJ panel found SSFC Chair Ellie Bruecker failed to set the minimum funding level on time, according to the decision.
Checker said Associated Students of Madison bylaws require the SSFC Chair to set the exact minimum funding level. He said Bruecker announced the funding level, at $10,600, late, but still one month prior to the MCSC budget presentation.
The decision said this was a result of human error. Checker said Bruecker admitted she forgot to set the level one week prior, but she corrected the mistake in a subsequent meeting.
“It was an indiscriminate mistake, all groups were affected, thus no evidence was shown that SSFC took MCSC’s viewpoint into account,” Checker said.
The exact dollar amount did not impact SSFC members’ interpretation of criteria set in the bylaws for minimum funding, meaning, the criteria to qualify for minimum funding is independent of the dollar amount for minimum funding, Checker said.
The decision requires Bruecker to write and distribute a letter of apology to all student organizations that applied for funding from the General Student Services Fund during SSFC’s 19th Session.
“Bruecker was singularly responsible for the mistake,” Checker said. “The mistake did not affect the process members used to arrive at the decision to minimally fund or the outcome of that process. We thought a letter acknowledging her failure to the GSSF would be sufficient admonishment.”
SJ also ruled in favor of the government in the CFACT appeal case. The decision said CFACT failed to show sufficient evidence of a viewpoint neutrality violation.
According to Checker, SJ did not receive evidence suggesting identical services were provided by other groups that receive their funds from the GSSF, as CFACT claimed in its hearing.
“It was incumbent on CFACT to show that SSFC members took CFACT’s particular viewpoint into account in making their decision,” Checker said.
Regarding the claim by CFACT that SJ did not take federal law and precedent into consideration, Vice Chief Justice Kenny Ho said CFACT cited federal cases in their brief and argued the judiciary did not consider federal precedent because it did not mention those cases.
Ho said the organization’s argument is flawed in the sense that simply because the cases were not mentioned does not mean the basic principles of viewpoint neutrality are not taken into consideration by the body.
“We clearly take precedent into consideration,” Ho said. “The crux of argument was just because we did not mention cases — that we left them out — is an incorrect argument.”
An MCSC representative did not respond for comment.