senate Bill S2931

Requires biennial referendum of student body at public universities and colleges to determine whether student activity fees are voluntary or mandatory

download pdf

Sponsor

Co-Sponsors

Bill Status


  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor
view actions

actions

  • 03 / Feb / 2011
    • REFERRED TO HIGHER EDUCATION
  • 04 / Jan / 2012
    • REFERRED TO HIGHER EDUCATION

Summary

Requires the biennial conducting of a referendum of the student body at each college and university of the state university of New York and city university of New York, and at each community college as to whether the student activity fees shall be mandatory or voluntary; requires the funds from such fees to be disbursed in a fair and neutral manner without regard to the viewpoints of organizations requesting funding; requires the posting of a notice of the purpose of such fee and the mission statements of all organizations receiving disbursements from such fees.

do you support this bill?

Bill Details

See Assembly Version of this Bill:
A389
Versions:
S2931
Legislative Cycle:
2011-2012
Current Committee:
Senate Higher Education
Law Section:
Education Law
Laws Affected:
Amd §§355, 6215 & 6304, Ed L
Versions Introduced in 2009-2010 Legislative Cycle:
S1628, A10758

Sponsor Memo

BILL NUMBER:S2931

TITLE OF BILL:
An act
to amend the education law, in relation to student activity fees

PURPOSE:
To ensure that student activity fee programs in place at SUNY, CUNY
and community colleges in New York State adhere to the recent U.S.
Supreme Court ruling on this matter regarding viewpoint neutrality in
funding decisions, to require colleges and universities to post
information on the student activity fee on a publicly accessible
website, and to require a referendum of the student body at least
every two years as to whether the student activity fee shall be
mandatory or voluntary.

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section one adds a new subdivision 20 to section 355 of the education
law to: require that every college or university in the SUNY system
post conspicuously on a publicly accessible website notice describing
the purpose of the fee and the requirements set forth in this
section; require a referendum at least every two years to determine
whether the student activity fee shall be voluntary or mandatory;
prohibit the use of a referendum for the determination of funding for
any particular organization; provide that any student group that is
officially recognized by the student government is eligible to
receive funding; require that the procedure for distributing funds
shall be viewpoint neutral; and provide for an appeals process for
registered student organizations complaining of viewpoint
discrimination in the funding process at all colleges and
universities operated by SUNY.

§ 2 adds a new subdivision 4 to section 6215 of the education law to
apply the procedures set forth in section one of the bill to CUNY
campuses.

§ 3 adds a new subdivision 1-a to section 6304 of the education law to
apply the procedures set forth in section one of the bill to
community colleges.

§ 4 provides for the effective date.

JUSTIFICATION:
The purpose of a student activity fee program at public colleges and
universities is to enhance students' educational experience by
promoting extracurricular activities, stimulating advocacy and debate
on diverse points of view, enabling participation in campus
administrative activity, and providing opportunities to develop
social skills. However, because such a diverse group of student
organizations are eligible to receive funding from the student
activity fee, students often find themselves in the position of
having to financially support organizations who engage in
political and ideological expression that is offensive to their
personal beliefs. A group of students at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison sued the University charging that the student fee
program violated their First Amendment rights by compelling them to


support speech that they found objectionable. In their suit, the
students asked that the University be required to grant them the
choice to not fund objectionable groups.

This case was heard in 1999 by the United States Supreme Court in the
case of Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v.
Southworth et at. (No. 98-1189). In its decision, which was rendered
in March 2000, the Court ruled that the First Amendment permits a
public university to charge its students an activity fee used to fund
a program to facilitate extracurricular student speech, provided that
the disbursement of funds is done in a fair and neutral manner
without regard to the viewpoints of the organization requesting
funding. This requirement for viewpoint neutrality in funding
decisions, the Court found, is necessary to protect the First
Amendment interests of students. The Court held that "Viewpoint
neutrality is the justification for requiring the student to pay the
fee in the first instance and for ensuring the Integrity of the
program's operation once the funds have been collected."

Additionally, the University of Wisconsin's student activity fee
program provided, in some instances, for a student referendum to
decide which student groups would receive funding. A similar system
is in place at public colleges and universities in New York. On this
point, the Court held that "The whole theory of viewpoint neutrality
is that minority views are treated with the same respect as are
majority views. Access to a public forum, for instance, does not
depend on majoritarian consent. That principle is binding here."
Finding this referendum provision to be potentially unconstitutional,
the Supreme Court struck down this part of the University of
Wisconsin's fee program and remanded the case back to the District
Court for further proceedings on this issue. On remand, the District
Court did in fact find this provision to be unconstitutional, and the
University of Wisconsin has subsequently determined that it will no
longer use the referendum process to fund student organizations.

Many of the concerns that led to the original lawsuit exist on
campuses within the SUNY, CUNY and community college systems in New
York. In fact, a group of students at SUNY Albany have filed a
lawsuit in federal district court in order to force compliance with
the Southworth ruling there. This legislation is necessary in order
to ensure that the Constitutional protections required by the U.S.
Supreme Court for student activity fee programs are in place for
students attending SUNY, CUNY or community colleges in New York.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
2009-10: Referred to Higher Education

EFFECTIVE DATE:
This act shall take effect on the first day of August next succeeding
the date on which it shall have become a law.

view bill text
                    S T A T E   O F   N E W   Y O R K
________________________________________________________________________

                                  2931

                       2011-2012 Regular Sessions

                            I N  S E N A T E

                            February 3, 2011
                               ___________

Introduced  by  Sen. JOHNSON -- read twice and ordered printed, and when
  printed to be committed to the Committee on Higher Education

AN ACT to amend the education law, in relation to student activity fees

  THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND  ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  Section 1. Section 355 of the education law is amended by adding a new
subdivision 20 to read as follows:
  20. STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE.  A.  DISCLOSURE.  EVERY COLLEGE OR UNIVERSI-
TY OF THE STATE UNIVERSITY SHALL CONSPICUOUSLY POST ON A PUBLICLY ACCES-
SIBLE  WEBSITE  A  NOTICE REGARDING THE STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE WHICH SHALL
INCLUDE, BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO: (1) THE PURPOSE OF  SUCH  FEE,  (2)  THE
RULES  AND PROCEDURES FOR THE ALLOCATION OF FUNDS FROM SUCH FEE, (3) THE
NAME AND MISSION STATEMENT OF EACH STUDENT  ORGANIZATION  THAT  RECEIVED
FUNDING  FROM  SUCH  FEE  DURING  THE  PREVIOUS  ACADEMIC  YEAR, (4) THE
REQUIREMENT THAT ALL FUNDING DECISIONS BE MADE IN AN  OPEN  FORUM  WHERE
ALL  STUDENTS ARE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT, (5) THAT ALL FUNDING
DECISIONS SHALL BE MADE IN A FAIR AND NEUTRAL MANNER WITHOUT  REGARD  TO
THE  VIEWPOINTS  OF  THE ORGANIZATION REQUESTING FUNDING, AND (6) THAT A
REFERENDUM SHALL BE HELD AT LEAST EVERY TWO YEARS THE PURPOSE  OF  WHICH
IS  TO  DETERMINE WHETHER THE STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE SHALL BE MANDATORY OR
VOLUNTARY.
  B. REFERENDUM. PRIOR TO THE CLOSE OF  THE  FIRST  FULL  ACADEMIC  YEAR
IMMEDIATELY  FOLLOWING  THE  EFFECTIVE  DATE OF THIS SUBDIVISION, AND AT
LEAST ONCE EVERY TWO YEARS THEREAFTER, THE STUDENT BODY AT EACH  COLLEGE
OR UNIVERSITY OPERATED BY THE STATE UNIVERSITY SHALL DETERMINE BY REFER-
ENDUM  WHETHER  STUDENT  ACTIVITY  PROGRAMS SHALL BE SUPPORTED BY EITHER
VOLUNTARY OR MANDATORY STUDENT FEES.  SUCH REFERENDUM SHALL BE CONDUCTED
ON CAMPUS AT AN EASILY ACCESSIBLE POLLING PLACE OR PLACES  AND  AT  SUCH
TIME  AS  SHALL BE CONVENIENT FOR THE GREATEST NUMBER OF STUDENTS. UNDER
NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHALL FUNDING FOR ANY PARTICULAR ORGANIZATION BE DETER-
MINED BY REFERENDUM. NOTICE OF SUCH REFERENDUM  SHALL  BE  CONSPICUOUSLY
POSTED  AT  SEVERAL  LOCATIONS  ON CAMPUS FOR NOT LESS THAN FIFTEEN DAYS
PRIOR TO THE DATE ON WHICH  THE  REFERENDUM  SHALL  BE  CONDUCTED.  SUCH
NOTICE  SHALL  INCLUDE,  BUT  NOT  BE  LIMITED TO, THE DATE ON WHICH THE

 EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                      [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                           LBD02190-01-1

S. 2931                             2

REFERENDUM WILL BE HELD, THE TIMES DURING WHICH POLLING PLACES  WILL  BE
OPEN,  THE LOCATION OF ALL POLLING PLACES, AND THE QUESTION OR QUESTIONS
BEFORE THE STUDENT BODY.
  C. ELIGIBILITY FOR FUNDING. ANY GROUP THAT IS OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED BY
THE  REPRESENTATIVE  STUDENT  ORGANIZATION IN ACCORDANCE WITH PROCEDURES
ESTABLISHED ON EACH CAMPUS SHALL BE ELIGIBLE  TO  RECEIVE  FUNDING  FROM
STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE PROCEEDS.
  D.  DISBURSEMENT  OF FUNDS. PROCEEDS OF THE STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE SHALL
BE DISBURSED BY THE REPRESENTATIVE STUDENT ORGANIZATION IN  A  FAIR  AND
NEUTRAL  MANNER  WITHOUT  REGARD  TO  THE VIEWPOINTS OF THE ORGANIZATION
REQUESTING FUNDING. ALL FUNDING DECISIONS SHALL BE MADE IN AN OPEN FORUM
WHERE MEMBERS OF THE STUDENT BODY ARE GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT.
  E. APPEAL OF FUNDING DECISIONS. THE REPRESENTATIVE  STUDENT  ORGANIZA-
TION  ON  EACH  CAMPUS  SHALL  CREATE  AN APPEALS PROCESS FOR REGISTERED
STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS COMPLAINING OF  VIEWPOINT  DISCRIMINATION  IN  THE
FUNDING  PROCESS.  AFTER  EXHAUSTING STUDENT REVIEW, AN AGGRIEVED REGIS-
TERED STUDENT ORGANIZATION MAY APPEAL TO THE CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE  OFFI-
CER OF EACH CAMPUS, OR HIS OR HER DESIGNEE.
  S  2.  Section  6215  of  the education law is amended by adding a new
subdivision 4 to read as follows:
  4. STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE. A. DISCLOSURE.  EVERY COLLEGE  OR  UNIVERSITY
OF THE CITY UNIVERSITY SHALL CONSPICUOUSLY POST ON A PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE
WEBSITE A NOTICE REGARDING THE STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE WHICH SHALL INCLUDE,
BUT  NOT  BE  LIMITED TO: (1) THE PURPOSE OF SUCH FEE, (2) THE RULES AND
PROCEDURES FOR THE ALLOCATION OF FUNDS FROM SUCH FEE, (3) THE  NAME  AND
MISSION  STATEMENT  OF  EACH  STUDENT ORGANIZATION THAT RECEIVED FUNDING
FROM SUCH FEE DURING THE PREVIOUS ACADEMIC  YEAR,  (4)  THE  REQUIREMENT
THAT  ALL  FUNDING DECISIONS BE MADE IN AN OPEN FORUM WHERE ALL STUDENTS
ARE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT, (5)  THAT  ALL  FUNDING  DECISIONS
SHALL  BE  MADE IN A FAIR AND NEUTRAL MANNER WITHOUT REGARD TO THE VIEW-
POINTS OF THE ORGANIZATION REQUESTING FUNDING, AND (6) THAT A REFERENDUM
SHALL BE HELD AT LEAST EVERY TWO YEARS THE PURPOSE OF WHICH IS TO DETER-
MINE WHETHER THE STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE SHALL BE MANDATORY OR VOLUNTARY.
  B. REFERENDUM. PRIOR TO THE CLOSE OF  THE  FIRST  FULL  ACADEMIC  YEAR
IMMEDIATELY  FOLLOWING  THE  EFFECTIVE  DATE OF THIS SUBDIVISION, AND AT
LEAST ONCE EVERY TWO YEARS THEREAFTER, THE STUDENT BODY AT EACH  COLLEGE
OR  UNIVERSITY OPERATED BY THE CITY UNIVERSITY SHALL DETERMINE BY REFER-
ENDUM WHETHER STUDENT ACTIVITY PROGRAMS SHALL  BE  SUPPORTED  BY  EITHER
VOLUNTARY OR MANDATORY STUDENT FEES.  SUCH REFERENDUM SHALL BE CONDUCTED
ON  CAMPUS  AT  AN EASILY ACCESSIBLE POLLING PLACE OR PLACES AND AT SUCH
TIME AS SHALL BE CONVENIENT FOR THE GREATEST NUMBER OF  STUDENTS.  UNDER
NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHALL FUNDING FOR ANY PARTICULAR ORGANIZATION BE DETER-
MINED  BY  REFERENDUM.  NOTICE OF SUCH REFERENDUM SHALL BE CONSPICUOUSLY
POSTED AT SEVERAL LOCATIONS ON CAMPUS FOR NOT  LESS  THAN  FIFTEEN  DAYS
PRIOR  TO  THE  DATE  ON  WHICH  THE REFERENDUM SHALL BE CONDUCTED. SUCH
NOTICE SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NOT BE LIMITED  TO,  THE  DATE  ON  WHICH  THE
REFERENDUM  WILL  BE HELD, THE TIMES DURING WHICH POLLING PLACES WILL BE
OPEN, THE LOCATION OF ALL POLLING PLACES, AND THE QUESTION OR  QUESTIONS
BEFORE THE STUDENT BODY.
  C. ELIGIBILITY FOR FUNDING. ANY GROUP THAT IS OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED BY
THE  REPRESENTATIVE  STUDENT  ORGANIZATION IN ACCORDANCE WITH PROCEDURES
ESTABLISHED ON EACH CAMPUS SHALL BE ELIGIBLE  TO  RECEIVE  FUNDING  FROM
STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE PROCEEDS.
  D.  DISBURSEMENT  OF FUNDS. PROCEEDS OF THE STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE SHALL
BE DISBURSED BY THE REPRESENTATIVE STUDENT ORGANIZATION IN  A  FAIR  AND
NEUTRAL  MANNER  WITHOUT  REGARD  TO  THE VIEWPOINTS OF THE ORGANIZATION

S. 2931                             3

REQUESTING FUNDING. ALL FUNDING DECISIONS SHALL BE MADE IN AN OPEN FORUM
WHERE MEMBERS OF THE STUDENT BODY ARE GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT.
  E.  APPEAL  OF FUNDING DECISIONS. THE REPRESENTATIVE STUDENT ORGANIZA-
TION ON EACH CAMPUS SHALL  CREATE  AN  APPEALS  PROCESS  FOR  REGISTERED
STUDENT  ORGANIZATIONS  COMPLAINING  OF  VIEWPOINT DISCRIMINATION IN THE
FUNDING PROCESS. AFTER EXHAUSTING STUDENT REVIEW,  AN  AGGRIEVED  REGIS-
TERED  STUDENT ORGANIZATION MAY APPEAL TO THE CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFI-
CER OF EACH CAMPUS, OR HIS OR HER DESIGNEE.
  S 3. Section 6304 of the education law is  amended  by  adding  a  new
subdivision 1-a to read as follows:
  1-A.  STUDENT  ACTIVITY  FEE. A. DISCLOSURE.   EVERY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
SHALL CONSPICUOUSLY POST ON  A  PUBLICLY  ACCESSIBLE  WEBSITE  A  NOTICE
REGARDING  THE  STUDENT  ACTIVITY  FEE  WHICH  SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NOT BE
LIMITED TO: (1) THE PURPOSE OF SUCH FEE, (2) THE  RULES  AND  PROCEDURES
FOR  THE  ALLOCATION  OF  FUNDS  FROM SUCH FEE, (3) THE NAME AND MISSION
STATEMENT OF EACH STUDENT ORGANIZATION THAT RECEIVED FUNDING  FROM  SUCH
FEE  DURING  THE  PREVIOUS  ACADEMIC  YEAR, (4) THE REQUIREMENT THAT ALL
FUNDING DECISIONS BE MADE IN AN OPEN FORUM WHERE ALL STUDENTS ARE  GIVEN
THE OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT, (5) THAT ALL FUNDING DECISIONS SHALL BE MADE
IN  A  FAIR  AND  NEUTRAL MANNER WITHOUT REGARD TO THE VIEWPOINTS OF THE
ORGANIZATION REQUESTING FUNDING, AND (6) THAT A REFERENDUM SHALL BE HELD
AT LEAST EVERY TWO YEARS THE PURPOSE OF WHICH IS  TO  DETERMINE  WHETHER
THE STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE SHALL BE MANDATORY OR VOLUNTARY.
  B.  REFERENDUM.  PRIOR  TO  THE  CLOSE OF THE FIRST FULL ACADEMIC YEAR
IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF  THIS  SUBDIVISION,  AND  AT
LEAST ONCE EVERY TWO YEARS THEREAFTER, THE STUDENT BODY AT EACH COMMUNI-
TY  COLLEGE  SHALL  DETERMINE  BY  REFERENDUM  WHETHER  STUDENT ACTIVITY
PROGRAMS SHALL BE SUPPORTED BY EITHER  VOLUNTARY  OR  MANDATORY  STUDENT
FEES. SUCH REFERENDUM SHALL BE CONDUCTED ON CAMPUS AT AN EASILY ACCESSI-
BLE  POLLING PLACE OR PLACES AND AT SUCH TIME AS SHALL BE CONVENIENT FOR
THE GREATEST NUMBER OF STUDENTS. UNDER NO  CIRCUMSTANCES  SHALL  FUNDING
FOR  ANY PARTICULAR ORGANIZATION BE DETERMINED BY REFERENDUM.  NOTICE OF
SUCH REFERENDUM SHALL BE CONSPICUOUSLY POSTED AT  SEVERAL  LOCATIONS  ON
CAMPUS  FOR  NOT  LESS  THAN FIFTEEN DAYS PRIOR TO THE DATE ON WHICH THE
REFERENDUM SHALL BE CONDUCTED. SUCH NOTICE SHALL  INCLUDE,  BUT  NOT  BE
LIMITED  TO,  THE  DATE  ON WHICH THE REFERENDUM WILL BE HELD, THE TIMES
DURING WHICH POLLING PLACES WILL BE OPEN, THE LOCATION  OF  ALL  POLLING
PLACES, AND THE QUESTION OR QUESTIONS BEFORE THE STUDENT BODY.
  C. ELIGIBILITY FOR FUNDING. ANY GROUP THAT IS OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED BY
THE  REPRESENTATIVE  STUDENT  ORGANIZATION IN ACCORDANCE WITH PROCEDURES
ESTABLISHED ON EACH CAMPUS SHALL BE ELIGIBLE  TO  RECEIVE  FUNDING  FROM
STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE PROCEEDS.
  D.  DISBURSEMENT  OF FUNDS. PROCEEDS OF THE STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE SHALL
BE DISBURSED BY THE REPRESENTATIVE STUDENT ORGANIZATION IN  A  FAIR  AND
NEUTRAL  MANNER  WITHOUT  REGARD  TO  THE VIEWPOINTS OF THE ORGANIZATION
REQUESTING FUNDING. ALL FUNDING DECISIONS SHALL BE MADE IN AN OPEN FORUM
WHERE MEMBERS OF THE STUDENT BODY ARE GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT.
  E. APPEAL OF FUNDING DECISIONS. THE REPRESENTATIVE  STUDENT  ORGANIZA-
TION  ON  EACH  CAMPUS  SHALL  CREATE  AN APPEALS PROCESS FOR REGISTERED
STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS COMPLAINING OF  VIEWPOINT  DISCRIMINATION  IN  THE
FUNDING  PROCESS.  AFTER  EXHAUSTING STUDENT REVIEW, AN AGGRIEVED REGIS-
TERED STUDENT ORGANIZATION MAY APPEAL TO THE CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE  OFFI-
CER OF EACH CAMPUS, OR HIS OR HER DESIGNEE.
  S 4. This act shall take effect on the first of August next succeeding
the date on which it shall have become a law.

Comments

Open Legislation comments facilitate discussion of New York State legislation. All comments are subject to moderation. Comments deemed off-topic, commercial, campaign-related, self-promotional; or that contain profanity or hate speech; or that link to sites outside of the nysenate.gov domain are not permitted, and will not be published. Comment moderation is generally performed Monday through Friday.

By contributing or voting you agree to the Terms of Participation and verify you are over 13.