Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin student-fee system

WISCONSIN — The University of Wisconsin’s mandatory student-feedistribution system is unconstitutional because it does not meet the viewpoint-neutralstandard imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Court Judge John C. Shabaz gave the university 60 daysto revise its fee system so that it complies with the law. Shabaz saidhe would dismantle the program if the university fails to make the necessarychanges.

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

The students who originally sued the university over its fee systemamended their complaint after the Supreme Court’s ruling to argue thatWisconsin’s mandatory fee system is not viewpoint-neutral. Their originalargument centered on the constitutionality of forcing students at publicuniversities to contribute funds to groups they disagree with.

  • Studentsmay sue University of Wisconsin for viewpoint discrimination in allocationof activity fees (11/16/00)
  • Lower courtsasked to revisit fee cases, Fall 2000 Report
  • Supreme Courtupholds student fees, Spring 2000 Report
  • SupremeCourt rules mandatory student fees constitutional in Wisconsin case(3/22/00)
  • SupremeCourt hears arguments in Wisconsin student fees case, Winter 1999-2000Report