Minority student groups 'forced to compete for funds' like others after conservative lawsuit...and they're not happy about it
- Young Americans for Freedom sued the University of Florida, alleging viewpoint discrimination in the distribution of student group funding.
- UF has changed its policy in the aftermath of the lawsuit, but groups are disgruntled with the student government's implementation of the policy.
An LGBT-themed group at the University of Florida issued a statement about a new funding policy the school adopted after settling a lawsuit with a conservative student group.
UF’s Pride Student Union claimed that it, along with eight other cultural student groups, were “suffering” under the new policy in a Friday Facebook post.
“An equitable solution was not found that would protect the big 9 cultural organization’s budgets,” said the Pride Student Union, referencing the settlement UF reached with its Young Americans for Freedom chapter, in which UF paid YAF $66,000 and modified the distribution of its activity and service fee so that it does not discriminate against student groups based on their views, according to YAF’s parent group, Young America’s Foundation.
These nine organizations are the American Asian Student Union (AASU), the Black Student Union (BSU), the Hispanic Student Association (HSA), Inter-Residence Hall Association (IRHA), Islam On Campus (IOC), Jewish Student Union (JSU), Pride Student Union (PSU), Women’s Student Assocation (WSA), and Volunteers for International Student Affairs (VISA).
UF’s Pride Student Union claims that, under the new policy, these organizations are divided for the purposes of funding and are “forced to compete for funds among the large number of other organizations on campus.” However, the group said, “Due to the high number of newly eligible [student government]-funded organizations, UF ran out of money allocated to student organizations on July 15th, just two weeks after event fund requests were opened."
UF’s Pride Student Union was also apparently notified that it will no longer have free access to the lecture hall where it has been holding its general body meetings for years.
“The intent of the lawsuit was to reopen the marketplace of ideas at UF, and now [the] student government has devised a convoluted system which falls within this criteria but still fails to meet the needs of their constituents,” Sarah Long, chairwoman of YAF at the time of the lawsuit, told Campus Reform. “While student government couldn’t adapt quick enough, [the student government] thinks it can pay off and silence the Big 9 this year, but the solution is not sustainable without hiking our already exorbitant student fees or reverting back to their unconditional practices.”
“All Gators pay tuition for the reason of having every available resource in our student organizations,” the UF YAF chapter told Campus Reform.
YAF sent Campus Reform a UF student senate bill advocating for the use of $800,000 in student government reserves for funding, such that surplus funds from a $400,000 fall semester disbursement will carry over to the spring semester, with unused funds after that period going into the student government reserves.
“UF YAF supports the bill,” the organization told Campus Reform. “We do not want Student Government to defund any student organization simply because they are incapable of running student government in an efficient, manageable way. If reserved funds aren’t used, it’s only common sense that they be used for students.”
But others, like Long, oppose the bill.
The former YAF chairwoman says that “the average student organization was fighting for pennies on the dollar of what the big nine were given, as all student organizations combined were given less than the average big nine organization. Now that funding is viewpoint neutral, these organizations are complaining about having to be treated like everyone else has been for years.”
“YAF and the University of Florida have reached a mutually agreeable resolution to the lawsuit,” UF spokesman Steve Orlando told Campus Reform. “Over the last several months, student government worked closely with YAF to update and clarify some of its internal processes and policies. UF fosters an environment where divergent ideas, opinions, and philosophies can be rigorously discussed and critically evaluated. We believe that the updated policies are a very good model for student governments and that the efforts made on both sides over the last several months have been valuable.”
“Student funding request decisions are not the prerogative of the university but of student government. The revised operational guidelines serve to strengthen this equity.”
Campus Reform reached out to UF’s Pride Student Union and its president, Nate Quinn, but received no comment in time for publication.
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