A civil rights class action lawsuit against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is now headed to federal court.
M. Samir Siddique and nearly four-dozen other students from the now dissolved UWM Student Association, allege that the administration illegally disregarded 2013-’14 Student Association election results, along with 19 other causes of action.
In response to the 2013-’14 election complaints, staff from the UW-Whitewater Student Affairs offices conducted an independent investigation that spring to decide whether the election could be upheld as valid. Investigators established that the UWM Student Association did not follow proper bylaws.
After this investigation, Lovell invalidated election results and appointed a board of trustees to oversee and install a new school constitution, including decisions made about the annual $28 million worth of student-segregated fees. Student-segregated fees fund student organizations, events, athletics, and more. Student government, like the UWM Student Association, makes decisions as to how those fees are allocated.
Prosecuting Attorney Gary Grass represents Samir Siddique and the other UWM Student Association students involved in the suit. He said 2013-‘14 elections should be upheld as valid due to the lack of substance found in the Whitewater investigation. Grass sees their results as “lacking good conclusions with generic faults,” and contends the investigation did not recommend Lovell to dismiss the elections.
Grass argued that school administrators had clear motivation to disregard these elections due to political contentions between themselves and those who won.
“They didn’t like the party that got elected,” said Grass, “they didn’t like the individuals involved,” seeing that those elected were the same students who tried to eliminate funding for the new Student Union.
“The administration found this to be a convenient way to throw out basically the entire student government and to be able to pick people they like to deal with,” Grass said.
Plaintiffs also contend then-chancellor Michael Lovell violated UW System Chapter 36 of Shared Governance between administration and the student body.
Currently, Ryan Sorenson is the President of the Student Association at UWM, the officially recognized and approved student organization.
Sorenson sees this lawsuit as “pathetic and sad” seeing two former students taking time and resources away from the University. Sorenson said then-Chancellor Lovell did what was best for the school and the new procedures of the Student Association.
“Currently we are focusing on issues that benefit student life on campus,” said Sorenson. Before the 2013-’14 elections, “old practices of the SA were so internally focused and not addressing real student issues.”
Overall, Grass and his clients’ end goal is to roll back the clock in terms of legislation carried out by the current SA, most notably those dealing with segregated fees. Plaintiffs contend that since the current SA wasn’t legitimately in place, what they’ve done is not enforceable in the future.
The timeline of when this case will be completed varies on when reply briefs are submitted and afterward the court ruling on their own time.