Needed: Campus Campaign Finance Reform · 21 April 2005

Filed under: Florida, Press Coverage

By Matthew D.

As a student at a state university, there are many things that I trust to governing bodies. Whether it happens to be the Florida legislature, the Board of Governors, or the Florida State University Student Senate, I depend on these bodies to spend my money wisely. In the case of the Student Senate, I expect that the 7 million dollars (and change) collected from tuition fees this year that it is responsible for will be allocated in a responsible, objective manner. That's right - FSU Student Government Association (SGA) has a budget of seven figures to distribute to organizations on campus. The fact is however that my Activities & Services Fee goes disproportionately to support organizations and ideas that neither I nor the majority of my fellow students support.

In particular, far left and radical organizations on campus receive between six and ten times as much money as is provided to campus conservatives. Recently, I was given access to the Student Government budgets dating back to 1989. What these budgets revealed was disturbing to anyone concerned about equity and fairness on college campuses like FSU.

Before I discuss the figures, let me explain the funding process itself. A fee is built into our tuition for funding student organizations and activities - it's non-negotiable, non-transferable, and non-refundable. These funds allow student organizations to put on events and invite speakers to campus who require transportation and lodging vouchers and honoraria for their appearances.

For the record, I think it's a good thing that student organizations are provided university assistance. I am also thankful that these funds are built into our tuition so that students' needs can almost always be met. However, I am not particularly happy about the way partisan politics shapes the way these funds are allocated.

Florida State University has one conservative organization on its campus that receives funding from SGA, which is the only student organization that acknowledges its ideological agenda: the Institute for Conservative Studies (ICS). FSU has several leftwing organizations, all of whom conceal their leftwing partisanship behind names that suggest a public interest. These include, but are not limited to, the leftwing Center for Participant Education, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Student Union (LGBTSU), the American Indian Student Union (AISU), and FSU NORML (an organization committed to the reform of marijuana laws). SGA money spent by these organizations is devoted to the promotion of ideas and speakers easily identifiable with the political left rather than an interest in native Americans or gays or participant education.

The Center for Participant Education does use some of its funds to promote viewpoint neutral activities on campus, such as courses in woodshop and pottery. However, the other activities of the Center are so radical as to discourage non-left students from participating in these otherwise neutral activities.

Examination of the SGA budget reveals an extreme bias towards the organizations and activities of the far left. For example, in the 2004-2005 fiscal year the SGA appropriated approximately $72,600 to the various leftwing organizations listed above, and approximately $15,300 to ICS. These numbers include expenses for the following things: wages for the staff members, program (speakers, events, etc.), general organizational expenses, food, and a category entitled 'other'. In the 2003-2004 fiscal year was an even larger imbalance- a $74,300 to the left and $10,000 to conservatives. An argument has been made that there have been several years in which ICS has had insufficient leadership to justify higher numbers. However, this standard has not been applied to the organizations of the left in similar circumstances. For example, the AISU was without a director for a significant period of time, yet its budget allotment was not cut to reflect this. The conservative ICS has to struggle to get funding even when their leadership is strong and their programming includes things that are educational, successful, inclusive, and positive.

Thus when the LGBTSU wanted to put on a drag show extravaganza, whose educational value was somewhat obscure, received nearly $4000 for event that was simply a party and a show. When the conservative ICS, hosted a radio talk show host and best-selling author to speak on campus, the funds allocated were less than those provided for the show.

The American Indian Student Union (AISU) does not present itself as a radical organization, but that in practice is just what it is. A Student Senate Resolution 84, passed on October 16, 2002, begins: "WHEREAS: The Center for Participant Education stands in solidarity with American Indian Student Union and Indigenous people all over the world to not allow history to be forgotten…" The resolution was an excuse to bring a fake Indian proponent of the idea that America conducted genocide against the native American population who has become famous since then. As a result of this resolution the AISU was provided with funds to bring Ward Churchill as a speaker to campus during Native American Awareness Month: "WHEREAS: Ward Churchill (Keetoowah Band Cherokee) is one of the most outspoken of Native American activists, well published and respected within the academic and indigenous community, and..." The noted correlation between AISU and CPE is enough to demonstrate the leftwing agendas of both organizations. Speakers such as Ward Churchill, Angela Davis, and Amiri Baraka are included in CPE's self-proclaimed "selection of speakers" in years past.

One could go back, as I have done, and see that this bias has existed for quite some time. In the fiscal year of 1989-1990, leftwing organizations were allocated approximately $66,500. The conservative organization received $13,500.

I have not included in these figures the Women's Center, which is another leftwing organization posing as viewpoint neutral. When the Women's Center is included for example for the 2002-2003 fiscal year the funding for the left is $104,300 compared to conservative funding of $11,200 or a ten to one ratio.

In the absence of some kind of "campaign finance reform" at my school to assure the equitable distribution of student fee money, my educational dollar is working against me by providing an unfair funding advantage to leftwing ideas. Money taxed from 30,000 FSU students is being spent in a six or ten to one ratio to promote leftwing agendas. There is no justification for this kind of disparity in the allocation of these funds. The student body at FSU is hardly committed to the anti-American extremism of speakers like Angela Davis and Ward Churchill. Yet that's what their dollars go to fund.

It's time for students to speak up against the disproportionate allocation of educational dollars to the political left on college campuses. This represents a massive subsidy to one side of the campus political debate, which cannot meet the test of fairness, diversity and inclusion to which the university otherwise pays lip service.

Matthew D. Farrar is Chairman of the FSU Chapter of Students for Academic Freedom.