After months spent tied up in the student government court system, a University of Wisconsin environmental advocacy group has exhausted its efforts to appeal decisions to deny it funding.
The Associated Students of Madison Student Judiciary panel decided the fate of the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group’s funding by the Student Services Finance Committee by a vote of the justices.
Chief Justice Kate Fifield said the panel sat down with WISPIRG and SSFC representatives before discussing the matter internally for around one hour.
She said although the justices normally take a longer period of time to work on the panel’s official opinions on ruling, members decided to notify the parties involved before the formal opinion was released.
In the order issued by the panel, Student Judiciary ruled in favor of SSFC, affirming a lower panel’s ruling that Student Council should not consider the matter on the grounds of a violation to viewpoint neutrality.
The panel also issued an order to reverse the previous decision by a panel that SSFC had incorrectly interpreted the ASM bylaws in determining WISPIRG’s eligibility status, but the decision to deny the group funding was correct.
“SSFC was just doing their job and were correct to deny funding,” Fifield said. “From my perspective, the matter should be put to rest.”
She added the ruling of the appeals panel, which consisted of all Student Judiciary justices, is supposed to be final and called WISPIRG’s chances of appeal at a higher level “long shots.”
Former SSFC Chair Matt Manes said the organization’s only chance to further appeal the final ruling will be to take up the dispute with the chancellor of the Board of Regents, which will only hear the case if viewpoint neutrality could be demonstrated.
While Manes said cases have been referred to these higher bodies in this manner, he said SSFC has never denied a group and had the decision overturned in this process.
He said he was pleased the decision affirmed SSFC did in fact deny the organization correctly.
“It was good to see Student Judiciary recognized what SSFC’s role in this process is and that SSFC did in fact deny correctly,” he said.
The committee originally denied WISPIRG General Student Service Funds because their direct services had too many beneficiaries, among other reasons, Manes said.
WISPIRG Chair Rashi Mangalick said members of the organization were surprised to hear the appeals panel reversed its previous decision and were anticipating the release of Student Judiciary’s full explanation for the final ruling.
In the wake the notification by the justices, she said members were engaging in discussions with ASM Student Council members, WISPIRG board members and others to consider the next appropriate course of action, adding it remains uncertain whether the group will pursue a higher level of appeal for the decision.
“We want to get back to providing educational services,” Mangalick said. “We are still having budget discussions and trying to discuss what to do next.”
Fifield said the formal opinion written by the justices, detailing the rationale behind the ruling, would be delivered after final exams.