UCCS OUTLINES ACTION PLAN TO SETTLE STUDENT GOVERNMENT DISPUTE

Tom Hutton, University Relations, (719)262-3439, (719)351-6519, thutton@uccs.edu

Following appeals by both the president of the Student Government Association and a student-run organization to support gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs officials today (Dec. 18) issued a decision on the six-week-old dispute between the groups.

Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak announced a five-point remediation plan in an effort to prevent further disagreements and to clarify administrative expectations that student organizations not discriminate and support First Amendment rights.

The actions that will be taken in early 2009 are:

A review of the Student Government Constitution and a constitutional convention in early 2009 to ensure Supreme Court rulings of viewpoint neutrality are upheld and current ambiguities in the Student Government Constitution are addressed in support of all SGA officials.

On-going training for all SGA members in issues of First Amendment rights, viewpoint neutrality, and other leadership principles.

An audit of Student Government funding decisions going back three years.

Affirmation of university anti-discrimination principles.

Affirmation of commitment to and protection of First Amendment rights of all members of the UCCS community.

The dispute between David Williams, president, Student Government Association, and Spectrum, a student organization designed to support gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals centered on Williams’ late September decision where he refused to sign a previously approved funding request for Spectrum, citing his personal views opposing the club’s mission. Current Student Government Association rules allowed Spectrum to receive its funds without Williams’ signature after a five day delay. The actions were appealed to a student judicial board which ruled on Nov. 11 that Williams had discriminated against Spectrum but had not violated rules requiring viewpoint neutrality in funding decisions. Both sides appealed the judicial board ruling to the university’s administration.

In reviewing the dispute, university officials, based on Supreme Court decisions, found Williams treated the club differently than other organizations and violated principles of viewpoint neutrality. However, university officials agreed Williams thought he was acting within his authority when he delayed funding for five days because of his personal beliefs.

“I believe the actions associated with this case can be attributed to a lack of understanding about the role of student leaders in making funding decisions as well as some confusion about the principles of viewpoint neutrality,” Shockley-Zalabak said. “Action will be taken to provide clarity in the future.”

Other than facilitating the students in completing the five-point action plan, Shockley-Zalabak said the university’s administration will not take further action. Remedies for disputes of this nature are included in the SGA constitution.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, is one of the fastest growing universities in the nation. The University offers 30 bachelor’s degrees, 19 master’s and four doctoral degrees. The campus enrolls about 8,000 students annually.