Liberals have 20:1 edge in student fee funding at UW-Madison
- University of Wisconsin-Madison students pay an estimated $7.60 to fund left-leaning causes each fiscal year, but just $0.36 towards conservative groups.
- Conservative students are advocating for a proposal briefly advanced last year by Gov. Scott Walker, which would have made student activity fees optional.
The University of Wisconsin, Madison raked in close to $50 million in mandatory student fees in back-to-back fiscal years, according to an in-depth Campus Reform analysis.
Students shelled out $48,304,995.37 in mandatory fees in fiscal year 2017, and are set to pay $50,009,977.94 in fiscal year 2018, a 3.53 percent increase.
Of the roughly $1.5 million that is allocated toward student organizations with a discernible political leaning, Campus Reform found that left-leaning organizations receive 95 percent, compared to just 4.5 percent for right-leaning groups.
This means that each student pays an estimated $7.60 towards leftist causes each fiscal year, and just $0.36 towards conservative groups, with another $3.08 going to diversity-themed organizations.
In the University of Wisconsin system, student fees are known as segregated university fees (SUF), and fall into two categories: non-allocable and allocable, with the former constituting 83 percent of SUF and “support commitments for fixed financial obligations,” and the latter providing “substantial support for campus student activities.”
In 2017, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposed making allocable fees—which total $8,231,986.37—optional, though the proposal was ultimately nixed from his budget.
But student Jake Lubenow, chairman of both the Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans and the College Republicans chapter at UW Madison, told Campus Reform that the College Republicans organization “stands firm in its stance that allocable student fees should be made optional.”
The fees “force students to fund organizations they may find morally reprehensible,” Lubenow asserted, arguing that “compulsion is contrary to everything this country stands for.”
Although funding decisions must be made in a viewpoint neutral manner, in accordance with a 2000 Supreme Court ruling involving three UW Madison students who objected that the mandatory fees were used to fund groups they did not support, left-leaning organizations still wind up with more than 20 times the amount of funding allocated to conservative groups.
Out of all allocable fees, $1,195,209.97 goes towards the General Student Services Fund (GSSF), which the student government, Associated Students Madison (ASM), then distributes to larger student organizations.
One student group, “Sex Out Loud,” received $103,398 in mandatory student fees, while the Campus Women's Center, which advertises events “dedicated to feminist and social justice causes,” comes with a price tag of $77,163.75.
Sex Out Loud has hosted several provocative events in the past, such as a “condom rose making night,” a “pleasure program,” and another called “tool shed,” which taught students the ins and outs of using sex toys.
Meanwhile, the university’s chapter of MEChA, a radical ethno-nationalist Latino organization, received a cushy $87,247.67.
MEChA chapters across the country have been at the center of several campus controversies, including one instance in which students from the group shut down a classroom talk by an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement representative.
The student group also routinely objects to apparently insensitive Halloween costumes, calling a law enforcement costume “intimidating,” and a construction-themed party “racially insensitive.”
The Grant Allocation Committee gave out an additional $477,724.81 to smaller student organizations in the form of 322 individual grants.
The Chinese Undergraduate Student Association was the recipient of its two largest grants, $10,366.10 for an annual singing competition and $9,077.50 for a dance event. The group states that its goal is to “bring students satisfaction, prosperity, and opportunities that help lead to a triumphant future.”
In total, Campus Reform found that students contributed $291,385.37 to left-leaning student organizations and events in fiscal year 2017, but only $13,727 to right-leaning ones, such as Young Americans for Freedom.
An additional $117,682.33 in mandatory student fees went to diversity-related student organizations, such as the Mixed Race Student Union, the Wisconsin Association of Black Men, and the Madison Association of Turkish Students.
Lubenow pointed out that for many students, the per-term fee is an added financial strain, and while he praised the state’s recent tuition freeze, he called for the state government to cut “wasteful programs” and eliminate unnecessary student fees in order to help ease the financial burden on struggling students.
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