UC Regents Consider Proposal to Restrict Fees

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A UC Board of Regents decision has caused some students to accuse the university of trying to restrict student fees, possibly violating a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The outcry is the latest in a years-long battle between the university and students over how fees can be spent that has often been left for the courts to decide.

In September, regents considered approving a student sponsored increase in mandatory student fees on the UCLA campus. The proposed $2 per quarter increase would support undergraduate membership in two student lobbying associations.

The regents approved part of the increase, which went toward the systemwide UC Student Association, a statewide lobbying group. The board, however, did not approve of funding the second group, the U.S. Student Association, a national organization. Approval is still pending.

The regents are currently reviewing the proposal to decide on its constitutional basis, said UC spokesperson Chuck McFadden.

"The given policy on what is permissible and what is not permissible for them to spend their money on is under review and at this point, it's impossible to tell what the ultimate decision will be," he said.

But students have already taken a skeptical view of the pending decision.

"I'm appalled by this," said Nick Papas, the ASUC external affairs vice president. "After such a resounding victory in the Supreme Court, we find it hard to belive that the UC Regents would want to try and limit the students again."

In 1994, a UC Berkeley student sued the university because he did not want his student fees to support student groups whose views were contrary to his own. The California Supreme Court agreed, stating students should not have to fund groups whose views they did not support.

At the time, the university decided not to fund any political, ideological or religious group but later changed its policy to only prohibit funding lobbying groups after students sued the board, said Eli Ilano, chair of UC Berkeley's Graduate Assembly.

In a similar case two years later, Scott Southworth sued the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Southworth and unanimously upheld the right of student governments to allocate funds to campus groups with a specific viewpoint.

"The Supreme Court was trying to say that they should fund all of the groups," Ilano said. "The way the university has been interpreting it since 1994, is you should only fund groups that are not objectionable, but there aren't any groups like that."

Several UCLA and UC Berkeley students spoke at the September meeting and urged the regents to approve funding of both organizations. They argued that since students had approved the increase in their fees, the regents should not strike down any section of the bill.

Some students said they see the regents' decision as a move toward increasing restrictions on how student governments can use their funds.

"They are taking this as an opportunity to rewrite how student fees can be used," Papas said. "Based on their action, we're concerned that they may try to subvert the Supreme Court. It's ludicrous for the UC Regents to openly and brazenly defy the Supreme Court."

UC Berkeley student Mia Scampini said she feels the power of student governments comes from their ability to allocate funds to numerous student groups with differing viewpoints.

"When the Supreme Court came back with a 9-0 vote, (it celebrated) the right of student governments to allocate funds as constitutional, as well as necessary," she said.

Both Papas and Ilano said if the univerity tries to restrict student governments' allocations of funds, they are prepared to take the UC Regents to court.

"It's not the interpretation (of the Supreme Court case) and if they try to make that the interpretation again, we'll sue them again," Ilano said. "They interpret a court case very conservatively and incorrectly and we have to sue them and expend student funds."


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