The Case for ASUN Discrimination
By: Barry Belmont

This comes from a comment by “Alpha Wolf” and spells out, quite clearly, the issues involved in the denial of Abolish ASUN as a club (and the approval of the other three that night). Go ahead and slap Plaintiffs v. ASUN at the top of this and print it off on some nice manuscript paper and you see the case to be brought before the Judicial Council.

Two problems exist with the denial of recognition. First, assuming the regulation is proper, it was applied with discriminatory effect. The Department’s procedures manual (I’d cite to the document, but as far as I can tell it does not appear online ) states “The President, Treasurer, and Advisor of an organization must be present during the hearing in which their organization is requesting recognition.” If this isn’t possible, the policy requires notification prior to the recognition hearing to the Department, in writing, designating a proxy. The language is plain, and the command is clear: do this or don’t get recognized. There is no room for discretion. Because there appears no room for discretion, the Department must apply it with an even hand. Otherwise, the Department engages in arbitrary (i.e. discriminatory) decision-making.

The second issue is whether the policy requiring attendance at a recognition hearing is even permissible under the exclusive recognition criteria enacted in statute. SAS 202.07(a) sets out the criteria for club recognition. Summarizing the statute, you need 10 members and they must: (a) submit the club’s governing document, which must comply with “reasonable rules and regulations” that the Director may establish; (b) provide evidence a member of the faculty or staff of the university has agreed to advise the club; and (c) agree to abide by a nondiscrimination policy. That’s it. This list is exclusive. There is no clause authorizing the Department to add to the list of conditions. If it’s not on the list, it’s not a condition for recognition. So from where does the Clubs Department get the idea it has the authority to require officer and advisor attendance at a recognition hearing?

One other problem, but this is probably pretty minor, is the Commission doesn’t have any role to play in recognition requests. SAS 202.07(a) says the group of 10 students petitions the Director. Implicitly, this means the Director decides. Read this clause together with the specific language in SAS 202.06 (setting the powers and duties of the Commission) and it becomes clear the Commission has absolutely no role to play in recognition requests. Indeed, there’s nothing in the recognition statute that suggests any sort of hearing is to take place. Instead, the recognition process is a matter of simple fact-finding and ministerial approval. Do things A, B, C, and D, and get recognized. If any one of the criteria is missing, do not get recognized. There is no discretion in this scheme, either, which is probably why the Senate decided to vest the recognition power in a single officer.

The supposed policy reason for advisor attendance–to improve transparency and accountability in the recognition process–is weak. ASUN’s interest is to ensure a group actually has an advisor. The statute says as much (The club “shall provide evidence that a qualifying member of the faculty or staff of the University has agreed to advise the club” (emphasis mine). Physical attendance is certainly one means of providing evidence, but it’s a very inconvenient means. Having the advisor sign a form or letter and a simple follow-up from the Department, in cases of suspected fraudulent activity on the group’s part, will protect ASUN’s interests and reduce inconvenience.

Summarizing, a few problems exist. The policy requiring advisor attendance is contrary to the law. Even if it is not, denying Abolish ASUN recognition while granting others recognition for not complying with the plain language of the policy is an arbitrary decision and should not stand. Finally, only the Director decides recognition requests, so no formal public hearing is even necessary.

That about covers it. Any questions?

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1 Comment Posted in Abolish ASUN
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  • Pellucidation

    Just one question: Now that it’s all spelled out for you, are you going to go forward with it?