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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Future of lawsuit against Arizona Board of Regents uncertain

A lawsuit filed against the Arizona Board of Regents is up in the air, following the passage of a bill Friday that will eliminate funding for a student-run, statewide lobbying group.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed House Bill 2169 into law, banning state universities from collecting student fees on behalf of non-university recognized organizations such as the Arizona Students’ Association.

“I’m pleased that the governor has signed the bill into law so that in the future no organization independent of the university can take mandatory student fees and spend it on political activities that many students may not agree with,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills).

ASA, which lobbies the Legislature on behalf of Arizona students, relies on a $2 per-student, per-semester fee for funding. In past years, the organization has collected about $600,000 each year from the three state universities.

Last fall, ASA donated $122,000 to the Vote Yes on Proposition 204 campaign using student fee money. The proposition, which failed in November 2012, would have extended a statewide one-cent sales tax increase to fund education.

After concerns were raised by student leaders from Arizona State University about ASA, the regents suspended the fee for the spring semester and ultimately decided to require students to explicitly agree to the ASA fee prior to payment.

In response, ASA filed suit, accusing the regents of retaliating against ASA for the political donation and inhibiting students’ free speech rights.

However, the passage of HB 2169 makes the lawsuit’s future uncertain. The decision of whether or not to continue with litigation will now rest with ASA’s incoming directors, who should be appointed within the next few months.

“That’s something I’ve talked with Morgan [Abraham] about and that I know the other campuses will be talking to their new directors about,” said Jordan King, vice chairman of the ASA board of directors and chairman of the internal affairs committee. “We’ll catch everyone up to speed and help them make the best decision they could possibly make.”

Student leaders across the state have been divided over the lawsuit. In February, NAU’s student government formally declared its opposition to the lawsuit.

A similar resolution opposing the use of student fee money in litigation was considered by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senate. The resolution, proposed by ASUA Sen.
Logan Bilby and Valerie Hanna, failed 6-4. Morgan Abraham voted in favor of the resolution.

The UA’s Graduate and Professional Student Council also backed ASA and the lawsuit.
Abraham, president-elect for ASUA, said he is discussing the lawsuit with student leaders at ASU and NAU to make a decision based on what’s best for students in Arizona.

“To me, it [the lawsuit] might be a positive thing for ASA and it might accomplish some things ASA wants to do, but it’s not the best decision for the students of Arizona,” Abraham said. “I don’t stand by the lawsuit, I don’t like the idea of the lawsuit, never did and I really never will.”

Update: An earlier version of this article said Morgan Abraham proposed the resolution. The article now reflects the correct senators who proposed the resolution.

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