November 21, 2005

Charges of viewpoint discrimination in funding student groups at UW.

The Badger Herald reports:
The Student Services Finance Committee for the 2006-07 fiscal year voted to minimally fund Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow at a meeting last Thursday.

Lindsey Ourada, a University of Wisconsin senior and intern program director of CFACT, said in the past few years the group has grown drastically in interns and student participation....

Ourada said CFACT’s main goal is to represent the other side of the marketplace of ideas, which is oftentimes neglected....

Although this year’s CFACT budget proposal asked for a total of approximately $385,000, the organization received minimal funding — about $3,000....

“I think it’s a really good system as long as the people act viewpoint-neutrally and in a fair way, but it was just clear that that wasn’t the case. The decorum in the room was appalling,” she said. “Some committee members did do their job, so I’m thankful for that, but unfortunately, the majority did not.”...

Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group, a university organization with goals similar to CFACT, received $123,209 in funding from SSFC for the upcoming fiscal year.
The process for allocating funding to student organizations at the University of Wisconsin has been the subject of high-profile litigation in the past: Board of Regents v. Southworth. The Supreme Court wrote that the First Amendment requires viewpoint neutrality: "The whole theory of viewpoint neutrality is that minority views are treated with the same respect as are majority views."

20 comments:

Pete said...

CFACT sounds like my kind of group but I’m not sure viewpoint discrimination is at fault here. The spokesman for the Finance Committee claims CFACT’s funding request wasn’t sufficiently detailed and CFACT offers no proof to dispute this claim. Regardless, the phrase “marketplace of ideas” is used – at phrase I admire greatly – and I would say that with CFACT’s success, they’d neither need, nor want, funding from the Finance Committee. May the best ideas win, without the skewing inherent in public funding.

Just Wondering said...

SSFC is not thinking strategically. CFACT does not need the funding. I'd be willing to bet that they have a team of litigators waiting in the wings for just this type of opportunity.

tefta said...

Don't know any details but I'd be willing to bet that the group that got one percent of the funds they asked for are conservative. University administrators better wake up. The younger generation doesn't buy their PC nonsense any more.

Ann Althouse said...

Tefta: Follow the link I give and you'll have your answer.

goldsoundsz said...

Reminds me of my college days when my friends' band wanted to get a permit to play a gig at the student center... The permit required they form some kind of student group and so they created 'Students for the Status Quo'. I wonder if that group gets viewpoint discrimination...

P. Froward said...

...minority views are treated with the same respect as are majority views.

How small can the minority be and still get funding?

What do undergraduates need $385,000 for anyway?

In their "About" page, under "Government Regulation" CFACT speak approvingly of "exonomic growth". Er... growth outside the law, maybe? Cool! But it's probably just a typo.

brylin said...

I suppose it is entirely possible that WSPIRG (Ralph Nader) has 41 times as many interns as CFACT. And it is also possible that CFACT's application wasn't sufficiently detailed.

Also, there are apparently University of Wisconsin guidelines on viewpoint neutrality, based on the remand of the Southworth case, but I have been unable to find these guidelines on the web.

A quick glance at Board of Regents v. Southworth (where viewpoint discrimination was stipulated not to exist) and Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, (where a viewpoint was completely excluded) leaves me with the question as to whether a different (discriminatory) levels of funding constitute viewpoint discrimination.

Bruce Hayden said...

brylin

I would think so. You can't very well fund a conservative group for $5 and an equivalent liberal one for $500,000 and claim viewpoint neutrality based on the fact that you funded both groups. (I am stipulating all things equal here, includig, quality of the funding requests).

Tristram said...

Not being familiar with UW student funding, is the whole budget cash money, or is some of the money really facilities usage that has been converted monetary amount? I mean, $385 is a LOT of cash, but 'renting' offices from the school at whatever 'official' rate per square foot could be quite expensive...

Tristram said...

Ah, that should be $385k in funding being a lot of money (thoug I do wish I had $395 in my pocket atm...)

PatCA said...

"...policies that encourage landowner cooperation, respect private property rights, and utilize market-based incentives should be pursued wherever possible."

There's your reason, I suspect, for funding denial (from their website). And further they even advocated limited government and lower taxes. Such dangerous ideas, they must be quashed immediately! I hope they do have a litigation team in the wings; it's time for a public debate on all these issues.

wildaboutharrie said...

I'd like to see the funding applications before I'd play the "conservative" card.

Benny, Esq. said...

The Supreme Court assumed a fact NOT in evidence in the Southworth decision - viewpoint neutrality. Contrary to what someone above said, it was not "conceded," it was never discussed all the way up (I was involved in this case from the beginning - although it has been awhile, I read each and every submission from both sides of this case, closely read the Order granting summary judgment at the district court, was in attendance at the oral arguments at the 7th Circuit and closely read its decision, was in attendance at the oral arguments at the Supreme Court . . . dissected the Supreme Court's decision . . .it's a case I followed closely.

Something the Supreme Court did not answer is HOW, exactly, to ensure or evidence viewpoint neutrality. It's impossible. Here's why: If a group of 2 students is given equal funding with a group of 200 students, the minority viewpoint gets overrepresented (think Congressional districts - why is it important to keep them relatively equal in population, rather than land mass?). Alternatively, if groups are funded based upon membership, majority viewpoints get overrepresented to the detriment of minority viewpoints (who are already struggling in the marketplace or they would not be minority views). If the answer is to put blinders on to the membership numbers or popularity of a viewpoint of a political or ideological group, we enter an exercise in absurdity and futility - it is simply not possible, particularly given the way funds are disbursed.

The answer? Stop idelogical welfare altogether and let viewpoints compete in the marketplace of ideas unfettered by strings attached by the "governing" organization. It seems to me anathema to free speech in two ways: 1. Forcing those who would not voluntarily support a viewpoint to financially support it (thus, "speaking," under a long line of binding precedent) violates the freedom not to speak. 2. For a political or ideological group to be funded by the government strains the freedom of THEIR speech. After all, it is government action only (and not, for example, the actions of private employers or even educational institutions) that triggers the first amendment right. Put another way, against which entity what was the speech which was guaranteed to be kept "free"?

Danny said...

"Strong defense, small government and responsible spending", sounds like they have more in common with a certain Wisconsin Senator than any conservaitve holding a top office. It's rather lazy to classify this as a case of the liberal SSFC vs. the conservative CFACT. The SSFC and ASM are known to favor those who come to meetings extremely well-prepared, with a detailed budget and a presentation that is clear and concise. This isn't a case of some horrible encroachment on the holy "marketplace of ideas", the represenatives were unprepared to defend a $385,000 budget and are now suffering the obvious consequences.

erp said...

Got it, but I didn't really need to have it confirmed. I haven't been on a campus since I retired about 15 years ago. Then there were no students or anyone else for that matter (except me), who would whisper a word that wasn't politically correct. Oh, the names I was called!

The internet has wrought wonders.

JoeMac said...

Being someone who attended the CFACT hearing, the discrepancy seems to lie in teh written budget p[resented and the oral presentation. CFACT gave a generalized budget request in writen form, then explained the specifics of it and its reasoning for being generalized. Members of the committee who claim lack of info either ignored the presentation, (some were not even in attendance for the oral presentation). It seemed to me that CFACT presented what they needed. The entire budget might not have been necessary, but the fact that they have more than twice as many interns as WISPIRG, and were expectibng to double that number next year. Minimum funding hardly seemed like a viepoint neutral decision.

wildaboutharrie said...

Joe - can you remember an example of something they were "general" about that they couldn't be specific about in writing? If they could explain the specifics in person, why not on paper?

I guess I'm confused because I've done a little of this money money-grubbing (though on the high school level) and the cardinal rules are follow directions, put it all in writing, and make the deadlines. And our grants were for $500. I can't imagine trying to fudge when you're talking about so much money.

I'll sound like a curmudgeon, but "in my day" student groups petitioned for funds for a few barbeques; the rest of the money they got through fundraising...we should have been more ambitious.

XWL said...

Couldn't you form a club whose only reason for being would be to ask for funding?

You'd demand the same per student funding that the best funded club receives based on the rules of viewpoint neutrality.

The club would then split the funds extracted with all the members.

I'd call it the Kickback club.

Abraham said...

XWL: In fact, the group must serve some purpose beneficial to the student body and the mission of the university; however, I distinctly remember during my time a cigar club that was formed primarily for the purpose of - literally - watching student fees go up in smoke.

Abraham said...

XWL: In fact, the group must serve some purpose beneficial to the student body and the mission of the university; however, I distinctly remember during my time a cigar club that was formed primarily for the purpose of - literally - watching student fees go up in smoke.