ASMSU reviews policies for funding political student groups

Politically oriented registered student organizations, or RSOs, could more easily obtain funding for on-campus events after a recent argument prompted ASMSU, one of MSU’s largest student funding groups, to review its policies.

After a miscommunication between ASMSU and the MSU College Libertarians, the student government plans to loosen its constitutional requirements to allow funding for political events, provided they are not direct endorsements of a certain candidate or viewpoint.

ASMSU previously did not grant funding for RSOs with “political agendas,” but now plans to review requests on a situational basis.

College Libertarians President Bobby Fox said the group applied for $4,450 from ASMSU in September to sponsor an on-campus appearance by New York Times best-selling author Tom Woods, but was told ASMSU could not fund political events.

ASMSU Vice Chair for Student Funding Michael Mozina said the College Libertarians never were denied funding, but that the decision was tabled for further review.

Fox raised the issue with Peter Bonilla, the associate director of the Individual Rights Defense Program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a nonprofit group aimed at sustaining civil liberties at universities.

Bonilla addressed his concerns with the event funding in a letter to the university, alleging if the College Libertarians could be denied funding, other groups with political tones could also be at risk. In a response letter to FIRE, Denise Maybank, interim vice president for Student Affairs and Services, said ASMSU will review its codes of operations to work with student leaders and maintain a “neutral manner under the First Amendment.” ASMSU determined that the event would not be a direct endorsement and approved the funding on Oct. 23.

The event, which originally was scheduled for earlier this month, has been rescheduled for Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Business College Complex, Fox said.

“A lot of groups, they do engage in activities that could be political in some sense,” Fox said. “It’s going to benefit everyone on campus, not just my group.”

MSU College Democrats Vice President Rawley Van Fossen said he was unaware he could even apply for ASMSU funding, knowing its reluctance to sponsor partisan events.

On election day, the College Democrats were turned away from canvassing in residence halls on the grounds of keeping students safe. Van Fossen said he had prior approval from the university to be in the residence halls, but said he also has had problems with reserving space for Democratic events across campus in the past.

“The entire campus cannot be nonpartisan,” he said. “People have views, and we’re in college; we should be allowed to express those views on campus and join groups on campus that support things we agree with.”

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