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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Student court rules in favor of AFTER

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AFTER legal counsel Tyler Junger and member Matt Beemsterboer argue before Student Judiciary their ad dealt not with election, but rather with referenda.[/media-credit]

While the Associated Students of Madison Student Judiciary ruled in favor of a student organization in a contentious suit over alleged misuse of student fees, the decision highlights issues of the appropriate use of such funds.

The panel ruled in favor of the Associated Free Thinkers Ensuring Responsibility, a student group which came under fire after purchasing an advertisement in The Badger Herald advocating a ‘no’ vote on the United Council referendum in the spring student elections.

The petitioners on the suit alleged members of AFTER used student segregated fees in the form of an operations grant to purchase the advertisement, in violation of Student Election Commission and ASM bylaws.

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Chief Justice Kathryn Fifield said while the panel found the argument that AFTER intended to use the operations grant on the advertisement convincing, there was not enough evidence provided in the hearing to support that claim and the justices could not definitely declare this was the group’s intention.

In response to the petitioners’ charges the ASM logo was included on the advertisement to lend legitimacy to the group’s stance on the referendum, the court found the organization’s argument that the logo was included to ensure all bases were covered unconvincing.

Matt Beemsterboer, a member of AFTER, maintained the organization included the logo because they originally considered paying for the three advertisements using the operations grant.

“We didn’t have enough funds to cover all of the ads purchased through the grant,” he said. “At the time, our belief was it wouldn’t be an issue because we weren’t promoting an election, we were promoting a referendum.”

The decision also said Beemsterboer, as chair of the ASM Finance Committee, would have been well aware that inclusion of the ASM logo and disclaimer on the advertisement indicated the organization’s publication was funded by an operations grant.

Kyle VandenLangenberg, who filed the complaint against AFTER, said the petitioners accomplished their goal of acting as steward for the appropriate use of segregated fees.

He said the distinction in student government bylaws indicating the illegal nature of using student funds to fund election activities intuitively includes items referenda and called the members’ behavior “actively negligent.”

“While the court doesn’t go as far as saying the actions were corrupt, members did actively intend to break the law,” VandenLangenberg said. “The chair of finance should be well aware it is a questionable tactic at best.”

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