A Student Judiciary lawsuit filed Monday alleges a student organization advocating against the United Council referendum inappropriately used student segregated fees.
Associated Free Thinkers Ensuring Responsibility received $6,500 in segregated fees through an operations grant from the Associated Students of Madison last year. On March 25, ASM Finance Committee Chair Matt Beemsterboer filed an advertising order on behalf of AFTER for three full-page ads in The Badger Herald urging students to vote “no” on a referendum to reaffirm the University of Wisconsin’s status as a member of United Council.
After the first ad ran Monday, the group pulled the two remaining ads following charges AFTER violated laws governing the use of segregated fees.
UW sophomore and former ASM representative Max Love said he filed the lawsuit because he believes AFTER violated ASM policies that dictate proper use of segregated fee funding when associated with a political campaign.
Student Judiciary Chief Justice Katherine Fifield said the court will consider next week whether funds were going to be used illegally. Payment has not been made for the Monday ad.
Chapter 6.02(6) of the ASM bylaws also states any funds appropriated to student organizations for use in elections must have the specific approval and authorization of the Student Judiciary, a matter Fifield said the court would weigh in the hearing.
Beemsterboer said AFTER aims to mobilize members to serve various objectives on campus.
“As a result of most of us being involved in ASM, we aren’t normally allowed to speak out with our relationship to [student government],” he said. “We felt strongly about the ad as a way to get the name out there and see if we had base on campus.”
Beemsterboer said the group decided to pull the ads instead of running the risk of being unable to pay advertising fees as a result of the suit.
UW System policies regulate political campaign activities, for which the use of state funds is prohibited.
“Political campaign activity includes not only … political action committees, but also advocating a particular position on a referendum,” a UW System statement said.