The Student Judiciary heard arguments Wednesday that the Associated Students of Madison Finance Committee violated viewpoint-neutrality laws when it denied the student organization Monkey Hoes' budget request last month.
Monkey Hoes, an organization "seeking to foster a fun campus environment," filed the lawsuit Nov. 29, claiming the finance committee unfairly ruled against the organization's request for a travel grant because of biased attitudes against the organization's stated purpose.
"Overall, when you look at how the committee treated our request as opposed to [those of] other groups, you can see it was not what typically happens," Monkey Hoes representative Patrick Elliott said after the hearing.
The organization had requested funds for a trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, scheduled for Dec. 2, believing the trip was in line with the organization's mission of "offering alcohol-free alternatives to weekend drinking."
Elliott said Monkey Hoes was denied funding because the finance committee was prejudiced against the social aspects of the trip and of the organization as a whole, and that the committee held it to a higher standard than other organizations seeking funding.
"There's nothing wrong with funding social events with a travel grant," Elliott told the panel of Student Judiciary judges, citing there is no policy against funding such events in ASM bylaws. "[The finance committee] just does not see a value in what we do."
Finance committee members, however, defended their decision and said Monkey Hoes did not provide sufficient evidence that their trip was central to the purposes of their organization.
"The organization failed to make a connection between their mission and how the trip will build on that mission," Finance Committee Chair Jennifer Knox said during the hearing.
Knox and fellow finance committee member Barry Landy presented other reasons why Monkey Hoes was not granted funding.
Landy said the organization did not fulfill the necessary criteria for receiving a travel grant, such as first seeking alternative funding options, bringing only people who were members of the organization and stating how the trip will benefit the University of Wisconsin campus.
"The finance committee should and can only fund groups that fulfill all travel-grant criteria," Landy said. "Monkey Hoes did not meet all the criteria."
Elliott, though, felt the committee treated his organization differently when debating whether it fulfilled the criteria than other organizations seeking travel grants.
Claiming the Finance Committee had previously given grants to the fencing, dance and ski and snowboard clubs, Elliott said he did not understand what those organizations did differently than Monkey Hoes.
"It's not fair to say we don't bring anything back [to campus] and that they do," Elliott said.
The Student Judiciary also questioned whether the Finance Committee had "bordered" on violating viewpoint-neutrality.
"To say, 'Your group is for fun. We're not going to fund you,' makes it seem like you're close to violating viewpoint-neutrality," Student Judiciary Judge Nate Romano told Finance Committee representatives.
No decision was made Wednesday, but the judiciary justices said it would make its ruling within the next five days.