MILWAUKEE (AP) – A conservative college group is threatening to sue the University of Wisconsin-Madison, claiming the school wiped out its funding as retaliation against its stance on global warming and other issues.
Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, or CFACT, promotes the idea that environmental issues are better handled by the free market, not by government interference.
One of its prominent issues is global warming. CFACT national director Bill Gilles called the phenomenon “overblown” and said government responses would be so obtrusive they’d do more harm than good.
“Let people adjust without government intervention,” Gilles said. “We don’t think global warming will be more than a degree or two over a century so we don’t think it will be difficult to adjust.”
CFACT, which has chapters on about 25 college campuses nationwide, launched its Madison chapter seven years ago. In recent years the school gave the group funding that ranged from about $130,000 to $200,000 per year.
But the school’s Student Services Finance Committee decided last year to withhold new funds. It said CFACT failed to comply with a number of mandatory clerical issues, such as submitting its end-of-year reports on time.
CFACT appealed the ruling all the way to Chancellor Biddy Martin, arguing that the group was actually being punished for the content of its messages. It also argued that WISPIRG, a more liberal campus group that pushes for the government to drive development of clean energy, receives funding even though it too makes public policy statements.
Neither argument was relevant, Martin responded in a note dated April 2. A chancellor can only rule on appeals that deal with content-neutrality issues, she wrote, but that point became moot when a lower appeals group found that CFACT failed to turn in certain mandatory documents on time.
“With no basis to change the outcome for CFACT, the remaining issues regarding viewpoint neutrality and equal protection no longer require addressing,” Martin wrote.
Gilles, the CFACT executive, said the chapter did submit its paperwork on time but the school’s finance committee lost it. Martin said that issue didn’t fall under the scope of her authority.
State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, was one of nine state legislators to ask the chancellor to reconsider.
“Without CFACT on campus, discussions about environmental and social issues will be completely one-sided,” they wrote in May. “The diversity that CFACT adds to these issues is invaluable to the UW campus and should be maintained.”
In response, Martin reiterated that she had no authority to intercede if the funding was denied because of a procedural issue.
Grothman wasn’t convinced. On Monday, he said he believed the issue revolved around CFACT’s unpopular message.
“We have a huge problem in society,” he said. “Too many of our universities hate any diversity of viewpoint other than that of the hard left. It’s appalling.”
Gilles said he hoped the chancellor would reconsider. He added that his group is prepared to sue if necessary, alleging that the school is violating what should be a content-neutral funding system.
He said the group uses its university funds to rent office space, hire speakers and promote awareness campaigns. It also funds hundreds of internships per year, he said.
“It takes time and money to organize a lot of these things,” Gilles said. “There’s absolutely no way we can maintain a 300-to-400-person internship program with no money.”