Dear Interim Chancellor Ward: My name is Cale Plamann and I am a 3rd year law student at the University of Wisconsin

Law School. For the last two and a half years I have been very active in the student government here on campus, and more specifically with the Student Services Finance Committee. In that time I have helped groups seeking funding, made decisions while on SSFC and responded to the inevitable criticism that any SSFC member encounters for simply doing their job. I am writing to you to inform you that I am very concerned about your response to MCSC’s appeal. My first concern is that you did not give SSFC representatives an opportunity to explain our decision and the bylaws that we operate under. This concern is doubled because much of your decision appears to be based upon an erroneous understanding of ASM Bylaws that a discussion with SSFC and SJ members could have cleared up. My second and possibly greater concern is the timeframe and forum to which you have remanded the decision. Many of the current student council representatives campaigned with and have actively championed MCSC’s cause without even the most basic understanding of VPN or the eligibility criteria. By only giving Student Council 5 days to get its affairs in order, you have virtually assured that there will be Viewpoint Neutrality issues. Further, by turning the budget decision over to Student Council you will be ensuring that MCSC’s budget is reviewed with a discernibly lower level of scrutiny. SSFC has spent an entire year developing budget philosophies that provide guidelines for how we fund specific types of line items such as food, honoraria, training, and computer hardware/software. Student Council will not have any of these standards/guidelines, and MCSC will be given unfair preference in their budget as a matter of course. I believe that you made several mistakes in analyzing the ASM bylaws that led you to the conclusion that they had been violated. In analyzing the ASM bylaws you rely upon the definition of a “Viewpoint Neutral Fashion” in 2.01(2)(b).1 It is important to note first of all that this is not ASM creating a definition for Viewpoint Neutrality which, as you have noted, has a separate definition that was not violated. Instead it insures a combination of Viewpoint Neutrality and procedural compliance for all grant allocation decisions. It is also important to note that grant allocation decisions also have a very specific definition in 2.01(2)(a).2 As the Waiver itself did not result in the allocation of Segregated Fees, there was no need for the decision to be made in a Viewpoint Neutral Fashion. Of course, Southworth and F-50 still apply to any decision made by ASM. As such, SJ was completely within its rights to void the waiver, but there was no need to also automatically declare that any procedural violation was also a viewpoint neutrality violation. Although you are right that in a vacuum these bylaws could be reasonably interpreted to redefine what constitutes a viewpoint neutrality violation, they do not exist in a vacuum. Namely, previous Student Judiciary decisions are binding for the purposes of procedural compliance with the ASM Bylaws. In both the initial WISPIRG and CWC decisions, SJ remedied procedural defects by remanding the case to SSFC to be heard again. In CWC’s case, the procedural defect was particularly egregious (namely that SSFC did not allow the CWC to pursue an appeals process that was in the ASM Bylaws and the SSFC Standing rules). SJ has established a policy that a decision containing only procedural or due process defects shall be remanded to SSFC. This policy is also enshrined in the ASM
1Viewpoint

neutral fashion: A decision is made in a viewpoint neutral fashion where the decision is made: 1) in accordance with any procedural requirements for making the decision; and 2) without considering the viewpoint being expressed by the recipient of the funds.
2

Grant Allocation Decision: A Grant Allocation Decision is a decision that results in the allocation of Segregated University Fees to a Registered Student Organization other than an ASM body.

Bylaws. Namely, SJ bylaws delineate the specific types of complaints that can be made and their various remedies. 5.07(1) details the process for procedural complaints which are “based on a procedural or similar violation that does not address viewpoint neutral concerns.3” 5.07(3), “Viewpoint Neutrality Complaints,” allows groups or individuals to “appeal an eligibility or funding decision on the basis that the decision was not made in a viewpoint neutral manner.” This distinction demonstrates that your very valid concern about procedural violations rising to the level of a full malicious VPN violation is unfounded as ASM Bylaws and binding SJ interpretations contradict it. Under 2009 SJ 5, the Student Judiciary has reserved the right to determine whether a case involves the application of viewpoint neutrality. Respectfully, your interpretation of ASM bylaws requiring SJ to remand all eligibility and budget decisions to council is incorrect. Under ASM bylaws, the only time SJ is required to remand a decision to Student Council is when a group successfully appeals “an eligibility or funding decision on the basis that the decision was not made in a viewpoint neutral manner,” and even then only when “a viewpoint neutrality violation is found against the funding body.” 5.07(3) (emphasis mine). Here it is again important to note that neither a ‘viewpoint neutral manner’ nor a ‘viewpoint neutrality violation’ is the same as a decision made viewpoint neutral fashion. Additionally, the bylaw in question refers to a singular decision. It makes no reference to previous viewpoint neutrality violations by a funding body against the group. If it was necessary based upon your interpretation of 2.01(2)(b) to refer anything back to council, it would be the actual decision in question when the procedural violation occurred – the funding waiver. Of course, SJ has the power and the right to refer separate cases back to Student Council if it finds a systemic record of bias and VPN violations by the funding body. The funding waiver was a completely separate event that was dealt with and resolved before MCSC’s eligibility was decided. Only if there was a finding by SJ that the funding waiver impacted the eligibility hearing should eligibility and the budget decision be referred to council. Instead, it appears that we are going to force a hastily trained, materially interested, and ill prepared committee to decide a complex issue in one fourth the time that SSFC takes due to a completely novel procedure that is not actually contained within the ASM Bylaws and with, as you’ve pointed out, no actual basis in viewpoint neutrality jurisprudence. As this issue is incredibly pressing, I hope you will be able to meet me on either Monday or Tuesday to resolve these issues. I understand that you are an incredibly busy individual with many pressing priorities, but this unfortunate misinterpretation has the potential to open this University we both love up to a torrent of litigation that I cannot help but conclude that we would lose. At a very minimum, it would be advisable to revise the timetable for MCSC’s budget and eligibility hearings as Student Council needs adequate time to train and determine which council members must recuse themselves. I hope to talk to you soon to resolve these unfortunate misunderstandings. Sincerely, Cale Plamann

3See

CWC v. SSFC, 2009 SJ 5 (en banc) where SJ reserved the right to determine whether a specific complaint addresses viewpoint neutral concerns. Available at https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/groups/ASM/ASM%20Website%20Linked%20Documents/Student%20Jud iciary/SJ%20Cases%20%26%20Decisions/2009ASMSJ5.pdf

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