College News

Lawsuits call out inaccessibility, perceived discrimination in SSFC practices

SSFC Chair Jordan Gaal defended his MCSC and WABM decisions as being viewpoint neutral.

Image By: Brandon Moe

Two UW-Madison student organizations representing marginalized communities are suing the Student Services Finance Committee after they were denied eligibility for General Student Services Funding.

Both the Multicultural Student Coalition and the Wisconsin Association of Black Men are pursuing lawsuits, citing a vague and confusing funding application process. Both failed to submit components of the funding application required for first-time applicants, which the committee said resulted in their ineligibility.

SSFC defines a first-time applicant as any organization that has not been funded in the past fiscal year.

MCSC has been a GSSF organization since 2000, with a budget most recently for fiscal year 2013. The organization said that the first-time applicant definition is too vague, resulting in confusion that ultimately led MCSC to not submit the supplemental waiver for first-time applicants.

Nine days prior to the application deadline, SSFC Vice Chair Kristi Parsons reviewed MCSC’s application and did not notify the organization of their missing documents, causing MCSC members to cry foul.

WABM similarly received an email from SSFC Chair Jordan Gaal saying the committee was unable to accept their application because it was incomplete. An extension to complete the application can only be requested before the deadline.

Kenneth Jackson, president of WABM, called the application process “confusing, unprofessional, and unorganized.”

The missing forms could have been submitted by a late submission deadline, but the email to WABM did not explain this option while it was still available.

Jackson said the SSFC application and decision process is a “purposeful prevention of people from being able to access funds, especially first-time applicants.”

However, Gaal holds that the process was fair.

“I was unable to accept the applications because they were incomplete,” Gaal said. “SSFC leaders and full-time advisors strive to make themselves available to answer funding questions and guide organizations through the process.”

Jackson said he thinks his group’s role representing a marginalized groups played into the organization being denied funding. He added that the rules are an example of institutional racism.

"The system is being used to prevent students, especially organizations of students of color, from being able to access funding,” Jackson said.

Gaal has said repeatedly that this is not the case, and that SSFC is forced to deny funding to any group that does not complete the requirements. He also said SSFC has offered to work with both WABM and MCSC to improve the application process and has already begun work on form modifications.

Gaal added that while SSFC leaders stress that “its forms and processes have worked in the past,” the organization is willing to make changes to make its rules more clear.

“We understand that improvements can still be made and we are open to and welcome suggestions so we can better serve the student body,” Gaal said.

Regardless of whether discrimination played a role in the decision to deny funding to MCSC and WABM, both groups hold that the process is too confusing.

“[SSFC] needs to break down barriers between students and the funding,” Jackson said.

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