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Berkeley student government proposes giving College Republican funds to Black Student Union


Senate to vote today about the fate of the chapter’s total funding

The student government of the University of California, Berkeley, will vote today on whether to defund Berkeley’s chapter of the College Republicans and reallocate those funds to the Black Student Union.

The Berkeley College Republicans, meanwhile, have slammed the proposal, calling the proposition “poorly researched and unscrupulous” and stating that it is “based on a complete falsehood.”

Senator Rizza Estacio, a member of the Associated Students of the University of California, proposed the reallocation of funding on the grounds that the College Republicans’ behavior during campus events was in violation of school policy.

“Some of what this organization has done has broken regulations that we uphold to every registered student organization,”  Estacio told the student newspaper The Daily Californian. “I want to make it clear that if you break these rules, you are no longer eligible for our funding.”

In a statement obtained by The College Fix, the Berkeley College Republicans expressed hope that the student government “censures Senator Estacio for this poorly researched and unscrupulous proposal.”

“The backdrop of this proposal is based on a complete falsehood,” the group said, adding that the Berkeley College Republicans were “not involved in any capacity with the planning and organization of Free Speech Week.”

“It is deeply concerning that the ASUC may strip BCR of its annual allocation due to spurious reasoning and misinformation,” the statement reads.

It is unclear which policies Estacio believes the group violated. Eugene Volokh, a lawyer and law professor at UCLA, told The College Fix via email that, according to Supreme Court precedent, a “content-neutral application of generally applicable and enforced rules is generally allowed; targeting a group because of its viewpoint is not.” The student government did not respond to requests for clarification on which policies the College Republicans may have broken.

Ari Cohn, a spokesman for the campus watchdog group the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told The Fix via email that “de-funding the Berkeley College Republicans because their expression offended others on campus would certainly violate the First Amendment.”

“The Supreme Court has made clear for decades that when mandatory student fees are used to fund student organizations, those funds must be distributed in a viewpoint-neutral fashion,” Cohn said. “As an agent of the university to which administrators have delegated the responsibility of distributing the mandatory fees that the university collects, ASUC is bound by the First Amendment in its performance of this role the same as the university itself would be.”

The Black Student Union did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

Reached via email, campus spokesman Dan Mogulof told The College Fix that “the Student Unions on University of California campuses are separate legal entities from the campus and therefore act with full autonomy and independence.”

“By the same token, senate decisions are not binding on the campus, so regardless of any decisions the ASUC senate may or may not take, UC Berkeley’s administration will continue to treat every single one of our 1000+ student organizations in an equitable fashion without regard for their perspectives or politics,” Mogulof added.

According to its website, the Associated Students of the University of California serves a variety of functions, including “controlling funding for student clubs and organizations, providing resources and student programming. ASUC advocates for students on a University, local, state, and national level and represents the student body on administrative campus committees.”

During the meeting, the governing body’s housing commission member, Matthew Lewis, expressed concern over the legality of this defunding proposal. He was not the only one with legal concerns. President Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris said that “zeroing out BCR is a lawsuit.”

In its statement, the Berkeley College Republicans seemed to agree, suggesting that defunding the organization might be actionable. “By moving forward with this resolution, the ASUC will expose itself to legal liability,” the group said.

Asked about Estacio’s claims that the College Republicans are guilty of violating school policy, Mogulof, the campus spokesman, expressed bewilderment.

“I don’t have a clue what he’s referring to,” Mogulof said. “As far as the campus is concerned the BCR is an organization in good standing.”

UPDATE: This article originally misidentified the Associated Students of the University of California as “the governing body of the University of California school system.” It is in fact the student body government legislature of the University of California, Berkeley campus. The article has been amended to reflect this.

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About the Author
Ema Gavrilovic -- DePaul University