Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Chancellor to reverse MEChA decision

Nothing is confirmed, nothing is on the record. But the word on
the street is shocking — UW’s seg-fee drama may take another
unsuspecting twist, and not from an ambitious elected official,
clamorous student group, or distant federal court. This time, the
shocker might come down from Bascom Hill.

At least one source close to the seg-fee process said there is a
“99 percent chance” Chancellor John Wiley will ignore the decision
made by ASM this fall to deny funding to MEChA. If this source is
correct and Chancellor Wiley overturns the decision, it will be a
set back for both sides of the seg-fee debate.

While far left liberals in ASM will like the short-term outcome
for MEChA, it is detrimental to the student fee independence
liberals desperately desire (and believe they receive from state
statute 36.09(5) from the administration). Any interference from
Bascom will set a precedent for future intervention — something
moderates and conservatives have tried to get the chancellor to do
for years.


What is disturbing about this potential reversal is that SSFC
chair Roman Patzner and Student Council Secretary Austin Evans
confirm that neither the chancellor or his staff have requested any
information about the MEChA case — no minutes, notes or arguments
from the meeting during which MEChA’s case was heard nor even the
group’s original eligibility application. The chancellor has never
attended an SSFC hearing for any group and attempts by Patzner to
meet with Wiley have fallen on deaf ears.

MEChA was initially denied funding by SSFC for several valid
reasons. They failed to demonstrate that they offer “significant
service components beyond programming” to the student body at
large. In addition, MEChA did not prove the service they claim to
provide is substantially different from services provided by other
campus groups, such as MCSC.

Additionally, MEChA’s failure to provide a unique and viable
service has historical background. When the group applied for a
small annual funding grant in the early 1990s, it was denied then
because its services were considered duplicative. Nothing has

This year, ASM also found MEChA in violation of Board of Regent
Policy Papers 15 and 37 for using seg-fee money to engage in
student recruitment activities. The regents mandate that seg-fee
dollars cannot be allocated for the purpose of recruiting students
to apply for admission to the UW. The regents also mandate that if
a disagreement in interpretation of policy papers arises, the
chancellor and student government officials are directed to meet
and attempt to resolve their disagreements. This has not

Failure by the chancellor to work with students on any
disagreement in interpreting regent policy will force a direct
conflict at the summer Board of Regents meeting when seg fees are
finalized for the upcoming year — a scenario not particularly
beneficial for students or for Wiley.

To overturn the MEChA eligibility decision, which was made by
SSFC and held up by Student Council, the chancellor must have
overwhelming evidence that ASM violated “viewpoint-neutrality” as
it is mandated by the United States Supreme Court decision in
Southworth v. Board of Regents. Because of this ruling by
the high court, seg fees as we know them remain legally viable.

During an appeal of the Southworth decision, UW’s seg-fee
system was again found constitutional by federal courts but only
under the condition that ASM bylaws are followed to the letter. The
Chicago court of appeals issued its ruling under the assumption ASM
bylaws would be properly applied–not ignored.

If Wiley is to consider a reversal of ASM’s “zero-fund” decision
of MEChA, he should also examine the Student Judiciary decisions
this year regarding the very same issue. If the MEChA zero-fund
decision is to be reversed, the procedures followed by Student
Judiciary as the MEChA case played out must also face scrutiny.

The abuses by Student Judiciary over the past semester are
begging for a federal lawsuit if the chancellor does not step in to
correct obvious errors in the application of bylaws and court
orders — specifically viewpoint-neutrality.

When MEChA appealed its initial “zero-fund” eligibility decision
to Student Judiciary, the current vice chair was not only serving
in his post illegally, but he infused terms such as “malicious” and
“non-malicious” viewpoint-neutrality in his decision — though they
never previously existed. This hair-splitting redefinition of the
U.S. Supreme Court’s key justification for maintaining seg fees by
the whim of one student’s pen is worthy of much deeper

Chancellor Wiley is known and respected on campus for making
careful decisions after a thorough review of the facts. He is, by
all accounts, a “straight shooter” and a fair administrator. There
is no question that Chancellor Wiley has a difficult job, and seg
fees are only one of the hundreds of issues he has to deal with
regularly. Hopefully, he will take the time to fully review the
MEChA case and other issues Student Judiciary has dealt with this
year. It will save the UW System money in the long run and would be
consistent with what the courts expect from him.

Fighting the constitutionality of seg fees has probably cost the
UW System hundreds of thousands of dollars; so it would seem in the
university’s best interest to take a closer look at all the abuses
and violations by our Student Judiciary in order to avoid more
potential conflict. As students, we can only hope the chancellor
will stop and consider why they were denied and the consequences of
a reversal before rushing to overturn the decision ASM made.

Matt Modell ([email protected]) is a senior
majoring in journalism and political science.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *