Federal judge strikes down University of Wisconsin student-fee system

The University of Wisconsin’s mandatory student-fee distribution system is unconstitutional because it does not meet the viewpoint-neutral standard imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge ruled Dec. 8.

U.S. District Court Judge John C. Shabaz gave the university 60 days to revise its fee system so that it complies with the law. Shabaz said he would dismantle the program if the university fails to make the necessary changes.

The University of Wisconsin survived a challenge to its fee system in March when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory fee systems are constitutional, even though some students may be forced to fund groups they disagree with on political, ideological or religious grounds. However, the Court said that to be constitutional, such programs must distribute student activity fees in a nondiscriminatory, viewpoint-neutral manner.

The students who originally sued the university over its fee system amended their complaint after the Supreme Court’s ruling to argue that Wisconsin’s mandatory fee system is not viewpoint-neutral. Their original argument centered on the constitutionality of forcing students at public universities to contribute funds to groups they disagree with.

Many had predicted this result following the Supreme Court