Sure, we all gripe about tuition, but most of us don't take the time to find out exactly where all those miscellaneous fees go. Three law students at the U. of Wisconsin, Madison, did take the time, and they didn't like what they found. In fact, they were so pissed off about it, they sued the administration in 1996. Now, their case, Southworth vs. Grebe, is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.
In the case, students Scott Southworth, Amy Schoepke and Keith Bannach who have since graduated claim that paying mandatory fees that go toward campus organizations that oppose their ideological or political beliefs is a violation of their free-speech rights. Meanwhile, the university argues that in a college atmosphere of differing viewpoints, all campus groups are entitled to support.
"In order to attend a public university, these students are forced to fund groups who advocate opposing beliefs. I think it's very coercive. If they don't pay these funds, they can't graduate, they can't get their transcripts," says Jordan Lorence, the students' attorney.
So far, the law seems to be siding with the students, who have gotten four more UW students to join the plaintiff list. And in a landmark ruling in August 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decided the school did not have a "vital policy interest" compelling enough to require a student to pay fees for groups with differing ideologies. Although the court's decision only applies to universities in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, it will probably affect the regulation of student fees at public universities everywhere. Stay tuned.
By Terry Tang, UCLA, Editorial Intern
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