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Board offers money, advisory role to student plaintiff - The Torch
Board offers money, advisory role to student plaintiff

Board offers money, advisory role to student plaintiff


Details of proposed settlement await administrative action

In a settlement offered through Lane’s Board of Education, former student government Senator Francisco Gomez would receive $6,500 and a role in crafting the board’s new policy relating to mandatory student activity fees in exchange for dropping his pending lawsuit against the board.

The lawsuit, filed in 2015, claims that the board violated Gomez’s First Amendment rights when it charged him the mandatory student activity fee that credit students on Lane’s main campus pay each term.

Gomez has said the motivation to file suit against the board was his dissatisfaction with the way Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group uses mandatory student fees.

The proposed policy before the board would end student voting on changes to the student activity fee and would create a new Mandatory Fee Committee charged with advising the administration on the needs of the student body. The details on how the membership to this committee will be determined have not yet been finalized.

At the heart of the lawsuit is the issue of “viewpoint neutrality,” a legal doctrine that demands indifference to the stated views of student organizations on the part of the funding committee when it makes decisions on how to allocate funds.

Unpublished correspondence between the attorney representing the college, Luke Reese, and Gomez’s attorneys, Nickolaus Gower and Benjamin Rudin, demonstrates that Gomez is involved in crafting the procedure that details the workings of the new committee.

“Before anything is finalized, [Lane] would like to give Mr. Gomez an opportunity to comment and confirm that the final policy and procedures, when implemented, will resolve this case,” Reese wrote to Gomez’s attorneys in a letter dated Dec. 29, 2015, which included drafts of both the board policy revision and the structure of a committee regarding the student activity fee.

Gomez provided an unsigned document that he describes as his attorney’s response to Reese’s letter, detailing the desired edits to both the board policy and the proposed committee’s procedure.

“As far as I know, the college hasn’t sent me back the significant revisions that my legal counsel asked to see changed and sent them weeks ago,” Gomez said.

Many student organizations on campus automatically receive certain dollar amounts of funding from the student activity fee. For example, ASLCC receives $9.14 per term from each fee-paying student and OSPIRG receives $3. More than a dozen student organizations at Lane have been granted guaranteed dollar amounts.

Five members of the proposed Student Fee Committee are listed in a draft of the Administration’s procedure, as presented to the board on Dec. 9, 2015. The committee could include the ASLCC President, the Chair of the ASLCC Finance Committee, a student selected by the Executive Dean of Student Affairs, a faculty member at-large and the ASLCC Student Leadership Program Director.

“We’re open to a collaborative process to get what we need so that students can feel some autonomy around the student fee, but we can also be compliant to the Constitution,” President Mary Spilde said at a public board meeting on Jan. 13.

Workgroups will be held with students and clubs to develop the final procedure around the Mandatory Fee Committee, according to Spilde. The policies and procedures, once approved, will be posted on the College’s Online Policy and Procedure System.

The board will vote on the proposed revision at its Feb. 3 meeting.Activity Fee