Miami University of Ohio settles student fees case

OHIO — Students from Miami University of Ohio recentlysettled their lawsuit against the university over the allocationof student fees to various campus organizations.

Eleven former and current students sued the university in June1999 for prohibiting the use of student fees for religious activitiesbut allowing other ideological organizations to use the fees.

In the suit, the students wanted to overturn the policy forhow funds were distributed, plus challenge the mandate to paystudent fees if the money went to organizations whose advocatedviews they disagreed opposed.

Under the terms of the settlement, the university has deviseda new system to allocate funding based on a group’s activitiesand events. All student groups can receive subsidized fundingthrough student fees. The money will be allocated for specificactivities rather than the entire organization, making all groupseligible for funding.

The settlement comes after the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 2000decision in another case dealing with the allocation of studentfees.

In Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin Systemv. Southworth, the Court ruled that a university could compelunwilling students to pay student fees to support organizationswhose views they opposed as long as the university distributesthe funds in a viewpoint-neutral manner.

"Southworth cleared up, of course, that universitiescan use student fees to fund organizations, but it also set forththe requirement that it be done in a viewpoint-neutral manner,"said Randy Blankenship, attorney for the students.

While specific details for how the university will now allocateits student fees has not been released, Blankenship said, thestudents are satisfied with the terms of the agreement. Discussionof a settlement commenced six weeks ago and was finalizing duringthe past two weeks shortly before the trial was scheduled to beginSept. 10.

"It accomplishes what we were hoping to do," Blankenshipsaid.