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UW-Madison, UW System, RCF reach settlement

May 3, 2007 By John Lucas

A settlement has been reached in the Roman Catholic Foundation's federal lawsuit against the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents and University of Wisconsin–Madison officials.

The Roman Catholic Foundation (RCF) filed suit in November, claiming that it had not been treated fairly when it was denied eligibility to receive student segregated fees. RCF alleged that the university's prohibition on discrimination in the membership and leadership of student organizations, and its requirement that student organizations be directed and controlled by students, were unfair to religious organizations.

"This settlement is beneficial to RCF, UW–Madison and UW System," says Casey Nagy, executive assistant to Chancellor John Wiley. "Our students have the opportunity to be part of a registered student organization that complies with our requirements for recognition and funding."

In December, the regents clarified its nondiscrimination requirement to allow student organizations to limit membership and leadership to individuals subscribing to the organization's belief or value statement, as long as they do not discriminate on the basis of legally protected characteristics.

In late March, RCF changed its structure to ensure that students direct and control its board of directors and leadership. As a result of these changes, RCF gained recognition as a student organization.

Under the terms of the settlement:

  • The suit will be dismissed, with each side paying its own costs. RCF will also drop its complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Going forward, RCF will be established as a separate entity from St. Paul's University Catholic Parish, and RCF will not seek funding for religious rites requiring the direction of ordained clergy.
  • RCF will cooperate in providing information about its budget to the university.
  • The university will continue to apply the principle of viewpoint neutrality in its consideration of segregated fee funding requests from RCF and other student organizations.
  • Based on RCF's attainment of official recognition, Wiley will recommend and the regents will approve student-recommended funding of $253,274 for 2007-08. The approval is subject to review for legality.

RCF may also receive an additional amount for rent and utilities if the regents ultimately approve that form of funding for registered student organizations.

Tags: student life