The Badger Herald recently wrote an article about a Campus Reform exposé stating that conservative student groups are out-funded by liberal ones at the University of Wisconsin at a rate of 20 to one. I would like to address a few points made in the article concerning my appearance on Fox News and the issue of segregated fees.
I sorely wish the Herald had reached out to me for comment. This “news” piece initially only gave a voice to the bureaucratic figure in this situation, Kristi Parsons, as well as the UW College Republicans Chair, Jake Lubenow, who had a full platform, while I was given no chance to respond. (They have updated the article since its publication with my comments).
That was my first time on live television. It wasn’t a great moment, recognizable by the face I made at the end of the clip, if you’ve seen the video (please stop circulating that mess and asking me to send you the GIF). It was also 5 a.m. and I had not slept that night due to my drive to Chicago. I was cut off earlier than intended and didn’t hit points I’d planned to make and word-vomited the article instead of my own analysis out of nervousness. I am not a public speaker and now know that broadcast journalism isn’t in my future. But I understand the implications of what I said.
In regards to the Herald article, I resent Parsons saying I have no understanding of funding groups. I understand that she was basing this off the video, but I have made easily-obtainable statements about segregated fees in the past. A little research on her part would have gone a long way, rather than making snap judgments on the most cringey moment of my life.
My organization has applied for funding through the Grant Allocation Committee and has been both denied and granted funding. I understand that the Student Services Funding Committee is a different distributing group, both committees deal in segregated fees, but are different sources of segregated fees. The GAC distributes ASM funding, whereas the SSFC distributes money from the General Student Services Fund. The two groups have different requirements, and had I not been a putz on television, I would’ve demonstrated this knowledge.
UPDATE: After conservative push for seg fee opt-out, SSFC official encourages conservative student involvement in ASMFollowing a recent article alleging liberal student organizations at the University of Wisconsin receive 20 times as much funding as conservative Read…
I would have made the major point many of the groups funded by the GSSF, for the most part, have a leftist ideology from the perspective of many students. They do not declare themselves liberal groups. But they have a left-leaning stance on certain issues — that is, they are progressive. I didn’t write the campus reform article, but I can say with certainty students at UW were contacted for their opinions on the groups.
As an example, consider the Campus Women’s Center. Parsons didn’t hesitate to allude that it’s sexist to believe student fees shouldn’t fund such an organization. I’ll speak up as a woman. I’m not a third-wave feminist. I don’t believe there are invisible barriers like the CWC cites on their website, that keep women from succeeding. That is a progressive belief. The CWC is much like other groups. Yes, the Black Student Union is progressive. So is Sex Out Loud. This isn’t a racist and sexist argument, as with what Parsons slandered the UW College Republicans chair. This is the viewpoint of someone who is looking critically at these groups. Just because the ideology is not stated explicitly, that doesn’t mean a group is without ideology.
Lastly, I’ll address the “loopholes” I mentioned on Fox. I admit this wasn’t the most accurate term. In the moment, I spoke without thinking through my words. I’ll explain what I should have said.
To receive funding, organizations must follow a set of rules. Recent issues arose where our Grant Allocation Committee was reported for ignoring rule-breaking in some cases. The Daily Cardinal wrote a vague article on the topic. Bias is happening — we just don’t know yet who it’s targeting. Associated Students of Madison has made partisan decisions in the past. The point I failed to make on air was that “viewpoint neutral” may be required by law, but people have the free will to choose — whether it be consciously or unconsciously — to follow that law. People still have inherent biases.
I disagree with the Campus Reform article in its explanation of how it classifies groups. They needed to provide more context as to what constituted a liberal group versus a conservative group. But still, segregated fees need to be addressed overall.
University segregated fees do not discriminate based on political affiliationThe segregated university fees continue to work for students, build commonality in the Badger community, and foster expanded world views Read…
My fees fund religions that I don’t follow. There are no Protestant groups, but my money goes to an Atheist group, a Muslim group, a Catholic group. Not one group in the GSSF represents me, and yet I’m helping with funding.
I hardly benefit from segregated fees. I don’t use my bus pass anymore. That’s $55 per semester. I don’t use University Health Services, $212. I don’t use campus gyms, $62. I don’t use the childcare assistance, $14. I don’t listen to or go on the radio, $3.50. A building fee for the Student Activity Center/UHS? I only go in there when need be, $17. Now tell me again why I have to pay nearly $1,300 per year in fees? We need to look into other options. In addition to segregated fee opt-outs, students should be allowed to select which parts of their segregated fees they wish to pay and would only be allowed to benefit from those places where their funds were targeted. Think of it as a membership — I enjoy the unions so I will pay that part of the fee. I’ll pay the Grant Allocation Committee fee, as my organization requests money from them.
Lastly, I wish to comment on the belief that I should run for office if I want to see change. I am pleased to say I know a few recently elected conservatives. But you do not have to run for office to make a difference. I don’t have the time to be on ASM, as I’m on the national board for an activist group. I chair two student organizations, work and attend classes. But I vote in elections and am speaking out for what I believe in, as advocacy only helps. ASM is supposed to make non-partisan decisions. Saying I need to change ASM by running is wrong. That would be like telling someone advocating against our president (I seem to remember a couple of marches against him) they should shut up and should run for his position.
Abby Streu ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in economics and intending to major in journalism.