NIU Recognizes Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Today John R. Jones III, associate vice president of Northern Illinois University, informed Jeremy Orbach, president of the school's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, that NIU's administration is stepping in to recognize SSDP as a "social justice, advocacy, and support organization," which means it can use campus facilities and is eligible for activity fee funding. The administration is thereby overriding the Student Association Senate, which twice voted against recognizing SSDP based on vague, constitutionally suspect criteria. In a letter (PDF) to Orbach, Jones writes:

I have made the determination, under the unique circumstances of this case, to administratively recognize SSDP as a student organization at Northern Illinois University. Your application appears to be in order, and the other documentation that I have reviewed is not sufficiently clear to identify a justifiable reason for the denial of such recognition....

In addition to this action, the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management is establishing a task force comprised of University officials and Student Association members to review and revise the recognition and funding processes as they relate to student organizations...

Lastly, the SA is collaborating with the University to develop a more formal training module for use by the Student Association on the applicable legal standards that have been established by the court systems regarding student recognition processes in public university settings.

Jones' decision came in response to pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has taken up SSDP's cause, and negative publicity about NIU's apparent disregard for First Amendment rights. Troubled by that publicity, Brian Troutman, one of nine Student Association senators who voted to recognize SSDP at a meeting on Sunday night (and who were opposed by a majority of 12), wants us to know that "NIU Student Senators Are Not Bad People." He explains (PDF):

The real problem lies not with the Senators, but with our bylaws. In fact, the Senators who voted against recognizing the SSDP were acting in accordance with those bylaws. Under SA bylaws, organizations that lobby the government or run informational campaigns are considered "political groups"and are ineligible for funding. SSDP clearly falls in this category. When I voted for the SSDP's recognition as a non-­political group, I realized that my vote was not in accordance with the SA bylaws, but I was more concerned about complying with the United States constitution.

Many other Senators were unaware there was any controversy in denying SSDP recognition. To them, they just followed the bylaws like they're supposed to....Some of the Senators I talked to privately said they agreed with drug policy reform, but needed to follow the bylaws. Previous Senate sessions have not been as strict in applying the bylaws, which is why organizations like the Campus Anti-War Network and Advocates for Choice are not classified as political organizations....

Our bylaws, though I disagree with them, were written with the best of intentions. The reason political groups do not receive funding is based on the belief that students should not be forced to fund groups that they may not agree with. Not allowing the SSDP to put up fliers is a different story. That policy makes absolutely no sense to me.

FIRE has more here.

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  • alan||

    organizations that lobby the government or run informational campaigns are considered "political groups"and are ineligible for funding.

    Uh huh. When was the last time any public university ever denied a student chapter of the NAACP funding? Never?

    Oh, they are a social justice organization? How that conveniently favors one political spectrum is just coincidence, right?

  • cynical||

    If you asked a conservative, they'd assume that SSDP was on the same side of that spectrum...

  • alan||

    Conservative are silly like that.

  • alan||

    A conservative can be silly like that.

  • alan||

    A back key can cause an auto submit? Squirrels!

  • Johnny Longtorso||

  • sevo||

    "....Most Wisconsin government professionals work in crappy office cubes with bad air and lighting...."

    We were going to have the violin section cued right here, but they're on strike for more benefits.

  • eamu||

    This guy just practicing being a real senator?
    "they just followed the bylaws like they're supposed to"

    Seriously how is this logical-
    By laws > U.S. Constitution

    Public Universities=Beaurocratic Drone mills.

    We are so screwed.

  • PIRS||

    "which means it can use campus facilities and is eligible for activity fee funding."

    Now I support the decriminalization of drugs but this line makes me wonder what other organizations on campus receive "activity fee funding". Are these activity fees in many cases paid for with tax dollars? Is there a "Marxist study group" that gets such funding? How about a "global warming advocacy" group? I do not so much mind them using a spare room on campus but actual funding for such groups using tax dollars would bother me. Perhaps this is something tax policy organizations should look into. Anyone concerned with the high cost of college tuition should also be concerned.

  • alan||

    Marxist study group

    That would be the sociology department, and a good chunk of the social sciences, and liberal arts departments.

  • PIRS||

    You have a good point here. And why the hell do our tax dollars subsidize people getting a degree in "Women's Studies"? What can someone actually do with a degree in "Women's studies"? I have never seen a job advertisement that asked for applicants with a degree in "Women's studies"?

  • alan||

    It helps when the Feds are putting pressure on your company to diversify, and you need a few idiots in human resources to show them that you are indeed obeying their whims by taking care of their kind who have not yet made it to the public payrolls. That otherwise useless women's studies major can save you a bundle in those situations.

  • PIRS||

    Interesting, did you work in human resources at a large company for a while?

  • alan||

    Then again, he likely takes ten times the amount of shit than I do. I just don't put up with other people's crap as well as I did when I was in my twenties. If the market folded for what I service, and the bungalows stopped generating income, I couldn't imagine going back to working for someone else with out retaliation which is the norm in an average workplace.

  • alan||

    Hey now!
    Nah. I've done a lot of things in my just over forty years, congressional page, paralegal, worked in an educational bureaucracy, for two banks, ran a warehouse at one time, bought a tattoo parlor for a few years, now I own a row of bungalows for my steady income and contract in a field that I avoid being too public about for my excess capital. Never human resources, though what I just related is close to a situation toldto me by someone who ran the local American Express operation some years ago. Former golfing buddy still with the company in the European branch now. Bet he makes ten times what I do now.

  • MNG||

    If you replaced "women's studies" with Latin in your paragraph it would be just as true.

    I think Women's Studies could in theory be a legit area. There are a lot of academic areas that specialize (corporate law, labor studies, etc) so the study of social phenomena involving women seems fair game. It's just that in practice it often turns into a NOW meeting with a syllabus.

  • Robert||

    What can someone actually do with a degree in "Women's studies"?


    TSA.

  • Student||

    The activity fee was probably paid by the students. At some universities, things like activity fees, student organization fees, and even dumb bullshit like "sustainability fees" or "green fees" are actually proposed by the busybody student governments, and then voted on by the general student population as a sort of referendum, who often stupidly vote in favor of increasing their costs of higher education. You know, "its only ten more dollars a semester". And then the student government often gets to decide who will get that money. Keep in mind a student government is itself a student organization, so they may be able to direct that money towards themselves. Some student governments at some schools actually pay themselves a salary from the student organization fees.

    Fees are also the way universities get around the laws that lock in tuition rates for students, the idea being that fees are actually different from tuition.

  • Robert||

    When my friend Ron Alessandroni became head of the Graduate Student Ass'n at New York Medical College, he pushed for a student activity fee for the GSA to get more money for parties, which is about all it was good for. Against my advice, he got it thru, and then the annual fee stayed on after he was more or less kicked out of school and the GSA disappeared. It just became a small fee collected by NYMC from the grad students for...nothing AFAICT.

  • ||

    I've never heard of tax dollars being used to pay activity fees -- those are usually directly charged to students.

  • db||

    When I was at Penn State in the '90s they proposed a Student Activity Fee, which I and some friends fought vigorously along with many more liberty-minded students. Unfortunately, most students didn't care about the extra $35 per semester that went to fund shit they never took advantage of, and couldn't be bothered to care about any other students who did care.

    My first lesson in why excessive taxation succeeds: usually it starts at a low enough level that most people don't care, and by the time the rate rises, too many are dependent on it for benefits. :(

  • sevo||

    "most students didn't care about the extra $35 per semester that went to fund shit they never took advantage of,..."
    Seems they don't mind spending the extra bucks, but don't you dare take any away:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/201.....ion_tangle
    "Students attack Prince Charles' car after fee hike"

  • hmm||

    File this under "Owned Bitches"

  • ||

    Birds gotta fly, weasels gotta weasel.

  • Liberal Student Senate Member||

    We must follow these rules! They're ruly and stuff! What's a Constitution?

  • ||

    Some of the Senators Insufferable Douchebags I talked to privately said they agreed with drug policy reform, but needed to follow the bylaws.

    Seriously, do a significant percentage of college students have sticks this firmly planted in their rectums?

  • Heh||

    I'm actually wondering what the consequences are for not following the bylaws. Probably nothing.

    And heaven forbid any of these geniuses make an effort to change those bylaws that tie their hands so thoroughly.

    And it sounds like they are also judges in this context, so can interpret the bylaws however they want.

  • MNG||

    It's amazing how everyone is interested in just having their two minute hate and not seeing this for the minor scrape that it was. If you'd like to be fair rather than live in a world of black and white hats then it seems like what happened is that this group rubbed the Senate group the wrong way which caused them to focus more on their by-laws which do seem to preclude this group. The by-laws were unworkable but likely well intentioned (they didn't want student fees to be hijacked by every political group in the are). All the students invloved were, well, just that, students, young people still learning life's ropes and trying to follow the goofy rules set by other people in fulfilling their duties, not long time Constitutional scholars.

    It all worked out in the end, everyone should be happy and go enjoy their day. The Army-Navy game is today.

  • Robert||

    Of course all you wrote is true, and it needs to be kept in perspective. It's not a major problem in the world, but it's a small example, in a microcosm, of serious shit out in the world at large, and therefore instructive.

    As to the Army-navy game, since I took up football coaching, I can't be a mere spectator any more. Same thing happened to my friend after he coached basketball & baseball -- can't watch those sports as a fan. I can watch clips for study purposes; a few plays on the TV above the bar might catch my eye as a little distraction if I'm waiting; but I've lost my spectator interest. What good is it when I can't correct them on their form?

  • sevo||

    "It all worked out in the end, everyone should be happy and go enjoy their day. The Army-Navy game is today."
    You're right! We should stick to the important things.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Some of the Senators I talked to privately said they agreed with drug policy reform, but needed to follow the bylaws.

    Yeah, the SA went to the old standby - The Eichmann Defense.

  • han||

    I have made the determination

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