The Associated Students of Madison’s Student Judiciary prepared Thursday for a panel hearing as the next step in a long-standing battle for funds between a Catholic student group and a financing committee.
The panel, to be held Saturday, is a response to a complaint filed by the Roman Catholic Foundation of the University of Wisconsin that accused the Student Services Finance Committee of violating viewpoint neutrality in their recent decision to deny the religious group funding.
The complaint outlines the SSFC ruling where RCF-UW was found ineligible for General Student Services Funding because they did not fit the correct criteria as an educational service. RCF-UW writes in the complaint that they believe this decision “was based subjectively upon criteria with no objective basis.”
Vice Chief Justice Shaun Hernandez said the panel is taking place because SJ decided the complaint had merit. He said that he, along with Associate Justice and Student Elections Commission Chair Tre Darby and Associate Justice Leah Moe, will preside over the hearing.
Hernandez said RCF-UW will explain their complaint and then SSFC will have a chance to defend themselves against the charges. The panel will then make a ruling after hearing both sides.
Hernandez said if the panel rules in favor of RCF-UW, the group will be granted relief in some way, although he declined to be more specific.
In the complaint, RCF-UW petitions for SSFC’s determination of their eligibility to be removed, and to grant them a new eligibility hearing with the Student Council. They also ask for SJ to provide guidance for the interpretation of the viewpoint neutrality bylaw.
If the panel rules in favor of the SSFC, Hernandez said they would uphold the finance committee’s decision.
Even if the ruling is in opposition to RCF-UW, Hernandez said the religious group can appeal the panel’s decision. He said if SJ decided to grant their appeal, RCF-UW would then appear in front of all eight justices.
If RCF-UW then disagreed with that ruling, they would need to appeal to a higher power than SJ, like the chancellor or the Board of Regents.
SJ also touched the April 1 vote on the referendum from the Iraqi Student Project, which contains a proposal for every student to donate $1 from fees to help pay for tuition costs for Iraqi students to study at UW.
Hernandez said since the outcome is nonbinding, the referendum is “more of a vote of support for the idea.”
Chief Justice Sol Grosskopf said there would also be a referendum on the spring 2008 election ballot that would change the ASM constitution to remove the Finance Committee chair from SSFC.
New members Nick Niles and Katherine Tondrowski were also sworn in at the meeting. Later in the night, Tondrowski was elected vice chairman of SEC, a position that includes helping the student election commission chair and other logistical tasks.
The RCF-UW panel will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. in Memorial Union.