University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire: Unconstitutional Student Fee Funding Amendment

Category: Freedom of Conscience, Religious Liberty
Schools: University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire

FIRE protested the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s (UWEC) Student Senate’s decision to withhold student fee funding from any student organization that espouses a “particular ideological, religious, or partisan viewpoint.” The rule, passed in March of 2005, came after a controversy regarding the approval of a new student magazine, The Flip Side, in December of 2004. A student senator was quoted in UWEC’s The Spectator as saying “We want to exclude any groups that would be religious in nature, political in nature or anything that would have a political agenda [from being funded through student segregated fees].” FIRE wrote Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson in opposition to the funding ban stating, “UWEC, as a public institution of higher education, cannot and must not forbid student organizations from determining their mission and membership based on particular ideological, religious, or political viewpoints, and must not deny them funding if they organize events expressing those viewpoints.” FIRE received a response from the UW system’s general counsel, who assured FIRE that the policy, which was not yet in effect, would be reviewed under relevant case law.

  • The ‘No Viewpoint’ Viewpoint

    June 6, 2005

    By Greg Lukianoff at Inside Higher Ed Imagine a college student returning to campus next fall and being greeted by a student government representative who asks her if she is devoutly religious or not. She answers “yes” and the representative responds, “I am sorry, the student government has decided that the separation of church and state means that, as state college, we have to be free of religious students. You may want to consider a religious college.” Next imagine this befuddled student taking her complaint to the president of the college and he says “Yes, I know the student government’s […]

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  • Service-Learning proposal approved

    May 12, 2005

    University Senate Tuesday approved the new Service-Learning proposal as amended at its previous meeting, finalizing its decision to retain the ban on projects involving religious proselytization, while eliminating restrictions on partisan political activity. By a vote of 24-8, Senate approved the new mission statement, table of goals and objectives and list of guidelines for Service-Learning projects. In addition to allowing partisan political activity to count for credit while still banning religious proselytization, the new guidelines stipulate projects must involve willing recipients and also include a policy on discrimination in accordance with “accepted interpretation of affirmative action policies” of UW-Eau Claire. […]

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  • Squelching of Campus Viewpoints Violates 1st Amendment, Group Says

    May 10, 2005

    A civil-liberties group says the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is censoring the political and religious expression of students. That action, says the group, defies the First Amendment. The Student Senate at UW-Eau Claire recently decided to bar the use of student fees to fund any student-organized activity that promotes a “particular ideological, religious, or partisan viewpoint.” In that March 2005 action, the student government amended the school’s “Organized Activity Funding Policy,” and placed that policy directly at odds with federal law and rulings in Supreme Court cases such as Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995) and Board of Regents v. […]

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  • Group targets student funding policy

    May 3, 2005

    In a controversial move, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Student Senate members passed legislation concerning student-funded activities that have come under fire from the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The legislation was a March 7 amendment to UWEC’s Organized Activity Funding Policy, which clarifies funding activities for the Student Senate. According to the new amendment, which was posted on FIRE’s website, “[Student activities] shall not endorse a particular ideological, religious or partisan viewpoint.” However, FIRE argues the policy is a breach of the Southworth v. Board of Regents Supreme Court case, which argues all funds distributed by student governing […]

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  • Political project restrictions denied

    April 28, 2005

    The University Senate narrowly voted to amend guidelines proposed by the Service-Learning Ad-Hoc Committee Tuesday, rejecting limitations on political activities that would ban projects partisan in nature. That decision was accompanied by a vote to preserve the restrictions on religious activity. The Senate voted 20-18 to remove the political restrictions, while the amendment removing religious restrictions failed 10-27. University Senate still must vote on whether to approve the amended guidelines at its May 10 meeting. The pair of decisions shattered the parallel the ad-hoc committee had drawn between religious and political activity, a move senators who served on the committee […]

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  • Lecture to Address Student Rights at UWEC and Beyond

    January 25, 2006

    EAU CLAIRE, Wis., January 25, 2006—Greg Lukianoff, interim president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), will speak at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC) on Wednesday, February 1. Free copies of FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus, which Lukianoff co-authored, will be available. Lukianoff’s speech, entitled “Liberty in Danger: The All-Too-Frequent Quashing of Student Rights at UWEC and Nationwide,” will take place at 8 p.m. in UWEC’s Schofield Auditorium. In the speech, Lukianoff will discuss UWEC’s nationally notorious RA “Bible study ban,” which FIRE originally brought to light late last year, as well as several other […]

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  • University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire Wages Campaign Against Student Viewpoints

    April 27, 2005

    EAU CLAIRE, Wis., April 27, 2005—The University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC) Student Senate has amended its rules to forbid any student-organized activity that promotes a “particular ideological, religious, or partisan viewpoint” from receiving student-fee funding.  This new policy directly contradicts the university’s First Amendment obligation to distribute student funds regardless of viewpoint and violates the rights of all UWEC students. “UWEC is defying the First Amendment,” remarked David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has written UWEC to protest the new policy.  “The only way the student activity fee structure is constitutional is if […]

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