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UWRF Student Senate passes resolution opposing ‘opt-out’ option for paying allocable segregated fees

April 5, 2017

At its April 4 meeting, the UW-River Falls Student Senate passed the following resolution to officially oppose allowing students in the UW System to “opt-out” of paying allocable segregated fees.

This comes in response to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2017-2019 budget, which suggested the possibility for students to “opt-out” of paying the allocable segregated fees that support student activities in the future.

At UWRF, allocable segregated fees fund student organizations, the Student Government Association, student media and campus activities through Student Involvement.

The resolution is as follows:

WHEREAS, in the 2017-2019 Executive Budget, Governor Walker recommended students be given the option to decline to pay allocable segregated fees at the time the student pays tuition;

WHEREAS, allocable segregated fees are an integral funding source for a wide variety of services, programs and facilities on all 26 UW System campuses that support the mission of the UW System;

WHEREAS, without this funding source, many of these necessary student services would no longer be able to be provided, causing a decrease in enrollment, retention and graduating students on every UW campus;

WHEREAS, in accordance with Wisconsin Statute, these funds are allocated through a committee of approved students, representing the entirety of the student body, called the Student University Fee Allocations Committee (SUFAC);

WHEREAS, under current law, SUFAC and all other public institution fee allocation committees are required to maintain viewpoint neutrality, as established by US Supreme Court decision “Southworth v. The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System;”

WHEREAS, Viewpoint Neutrality requires SUFAC to allocate these fees in a neutral manner, meaning they cannot take into consideration the point of view or opinion of each organization, or discriminate against specific organizations due to their viewpoints;

WHEREAS, if the current system for segregated fees were changed to include an option for students to decline to pay allocable segregated fees, viewpoint neutrality may no longer apply to allocation of these fees;

WHEREAS, if viewpoint neutrality no longer applied to decisions made, certain opinions or viewpoints would no longer be protected and funding for services or organizations may no longer be provided;

WHEREAS, to not jeopardize viewpoint neutrality, the current system should remain in place to protect equal funding opportunity;

WHEREAS, all students should have an equal ability to access services and opportunities provided by segregated fees;

WHEREAS, if segregated fees were to become an optional cost, Federal Post 9/11 GI Bill and some Financial Aid sources could not be used by any student to pay the allocable segregated fee because these funding sources cannot be used for optional student fees;

WHEREAS, without being able to utilize these various funding sources, many students would not have the ability to pay for allocable segregated fees even if they wished to;

WHEREAS, many services provided to all students through allocable segregated fees are impractical or impossible to provide solely to those who have paid fees under a system where students have;

WHEREAS, UW-Eau Claire’s Student Senate stated that the “[current] system put in place to allocate these allocable segregated fees provides students the resources and opportunities to gain valuable knowledge and experience that will better prepare them for the Wisconsin workforce” and that an opt-out would “would eliminate programs and activities essential to a UW-Eau Claire education”;

WHEREAS, the UW-La Crosse Student Association stated that the opt-out will create “major funding losses and budget uncertainties from year to year” and that this “goes against the needed steps to stay fiscally responsible” while also stating that “services and opportunities that would be negatively impacted by this proposal include student bus and safe ride services, varsity athletics, multicultural programs, music programs, theatre, campus radio, student government and many other student organizations;”

WHEREAS, UW-Madison’s ASM has stated that “the transportation budget is one example of where problems may occur [with an opt-out]. Sixty-eight percent of students at UW-Madison picked up a bus pass last semester. Students depend on access to transportation on our 936-acre campus, and would struggle to get to classes” if the opt-out were to pass;

WHEREAS, a UW-Manitowoc student government press release stated that “our small campus would face severe restrictions on programs” such as “an athletic program which has successfully attracted students from as far as Milwaukee [and] a very successful theater that has attracted considerable community support and participation;”

WHEREAS, a UW-Marshfield/Wood County student government press release stated that “student organizations and activities that would be adversely affected by this proposal include Student Ambassadors, The Peer Tutor Club, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, the Art Gallery, Student Government, Student Activities, The Villas Council, The International Club and any future student organizations” and “departments that would be adversely affected by this proposal include Drama Production, Music Production, the Success Center Tutoring Services, Athletics and Continuing Education;”

WHEREAS, UW-Milwaukee’s Student Association stated that the allocable fees “are allocated to vital campus resources such as the Military and Veterans Resource Center and Transportation Services” and that “UWM serves more veterans than any school in the six state region. We would be unable to meet their unique needs if we did not do our best to serve them, as they did and continue to do for us” with UWM veterans writing an open letter to the legislature in conjunction with these sentiments;

WHEREAS, a UW-River Falls student government press release stated that the opt-out would “likely result in the termination of many student oriented programs and services, therefore jeopardizing the success and wellbeing of the nearly 6,000 students of UWRF;”

WHEREAS, UW-Stout’s Student Senate stated that “allocable student fees provide event and activity support for the majority of UW-Stout’s 158 student organizations”, and that “the structural changes suggested in the Executive Budget would cause considerable financial uncertainty and would seriously impact [the] budget model;”

WHEREAS, UW-Washington County’s student government has stated that “allowing students to opt-out of their allocable student segregated fees will not only devastate, but potentially eliminate, [programs] that our students utilize on campus;”

WHEREAS, UW-Waukesha’s Student Association states that “we are honored to help fund different student services such as Veteran’s Organization, theatre, athletics, Diversity and Pre-College Center and over 30 clubs and organizations” and that an opt-out would create a situation where “the continuation of beneficial services would be affected and possibly be cut altogether;”

WHEREAS, UW-Whitewater’s committee responsible for allocating the fees has stated that “these fees are an absolute necessity to not only our campus, but to all other UW campuses in the state, and it would be doing a disservice to students to allow them to opt out of paying them,” as well as the fact that the fees “provide a home for veteran students on campus, allow students with disabilities to do things they love, create important leadership opportunities where students can grow as individuals” among many other opportunities;

THEREFORE, UWRF strongly opposes the recommendation to allow UW System Students to have the option to decline to pay allocable segregated fees;

THEREFORE, UWRF requests all members of the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly to oppose any provision allowing students the option to pay allocable segregated fees and removing this section from the final budget before passage;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, upon approval, this resolution shall be forwarded on to Wisconsin State Senator Sheila Harsdorf and UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen.