The University of Wisconsin Roman Catholic Foundation is not eligible to receive student-segregated fees from the university, a federal judge ruled Thursday, since it does not currently meet the criteria of a student organization.

However, the foundation could be eligible for segregated-fee funding in the future, U.S. District Judge John Shabaz said, once it adds more students to its board of directors and achieves at least a 50-50 split between students and non-students.

Shabaz added UWRCF would be eligible for student-fee funding even if it was discriminatory in its membership selection, a direct contradiction of current UW policy.

If UW prevented the foundation from receiving student-segregated fees based on it being discriminatory, Shabaz said the university would be violating the foundation's constitutional right to free association.

"That's huge for us," UWRCF President Tim Kruse said in an interview with The Badger Herald Thursday. "The judge emphatically stated that the university's policy is straight up in violation of the First Amendment and the right to free association."

Throughout an ongoing funding debate that dates back to fall 2005, UW administrators have consistently said the foundation should not be eligible for student-segregated fee funding, since it violates the university's nondiscrimination policy for student organizations.

Though UWRCF has maintained that it does not discriminate against any students — and remains open to all — the university's nondiscrimination policy was cited periodically during the two-year funding battle over the foundation's proposed student-segregated fee budget, which totaled more than $253,000.

After fighting a series of proposed cuts to their budget, the foundation filed a federal lawsuit against the university, challenging UW over several issues of freedom of speech and due process.

In terms of deciding that UWRCF was not a student organization, Casey Nagy, chief of staff for Chancellor John Wiley, told The Badger Herald Thursday's ruling was "fairly straightforward."

"It was a clear ruling that student organizations should be run by students," Nagy said.

However, he said the university would withhold comment on the rest of Shabaz's decision until administrators had an opportunity to review it in its entirety.

"Until we have that clearly before us, it would be premature — and perhaps confusing — to express a reaction," Nagy said, adding any discussion on how Thursday's ruling would affect university policy would have to wait.

In the meantime, Kruse said UWRCF would rewrite its bylaws to ensure students make up at least half of the foundation's board of directors, and added the foundation would reapply for "registered student organization" status after making the change.

"We will add the other students and resubmit our application to the university right away," Kruse said.

Though significant, Thursday's injunction hearing ruling is only the most recent step in the foundation's legal battle with UW.

Filed in November 2006, UWRCF's complaint — which lists Wiley, Dean of Students Lori Berquam and the UW System Board Regents among the defendants — is still pending in federal courts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.