Nebraska Regents update policy on student fees & speakers

The policy change was part of a settlement between a student organization and the university in order to dismiss a federal court case.
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 1:38 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - The Nebraska Board of Regents Friday unanimously agreed to update the policy on how student fees are used to pay speakers.

The changes were made in the wake of a federal lawsuit filed by UNL student organization Ratio Christi which was recently settled before it went to trial. The organization and a few members of the organization sued the Board of Regents, UNL, and others after their application for $1,500 in funds from student fees were denied to help pay for a lecture from Dr. Robert Audi, a Christian philosophy and professor at the University of Notre Dame.

At Friday’s Regents meeting, members pointed out that the current policy was adopted in 1979 and needed to be modernized.

You can read the changes starting on page 76 on Friday’s agenda. It says that a student organization may consider many things when deciding whether student fees can be used to sponsor speakers. They include the extent to which the speaker’s intended message advances the educational mission of the university, the overall breadth of topics covered by speakers during the current academic year and the past three academic years with the goal of having a broad range of topics, the reputation of the speaker, the level of interest of having the speaker come to campus, and the university’s ability to ensure the safety of the speaker, students, and others.

Removed from the policy is language that required a campus to have a reasonable political and ideological balance on subjects of politics and government. If an organization sponsored a speaker that represents one view, the campus was to make reasonable attempts to sponsor a different program in the same year of someone who represents the opposite view. Again, that will no longer be the case.

The student government at each university must now develop and implement procedures to ensure they are complying with the policy and have an appeal process.

Before the vote, UNL Student Rent Jacob Drake offered his own observation to say, “I’ve spoken at length to the students about how this would impact the ability to sponsor speakers on campus and what kind of speakers this might hinder or allow in to bring, it certainly creates more guardrails for how those discussions should go. But the general consensus is that the whole point of a college campus is to engage in ideas that you might not always agree with and I hope this policy helps us do that.”

Also noted during the meeting was an increase to dormitory fees. The Board unanimously approved raising dorm rates.

UNO students will be paying 3.4% more next year, and will also have another 3.5% increase in 2024, and 2025.

At UNL there will be a 3% increase next school year, which comes after a 3% increase this year.

The board said the increases are to cover higher costs including salaries, food and supplies.

University of Nebraska students will be paying slightly more for dorms

In other matters, Friday’s Board of Regents meeting was the final one for Regent Jim Pillen who will take on a new job in January, Governor of Nebraska. He was elected as a Regent in 2018 for a 6-year term. Per state law, the governor is responsible for appointing replacements on the Board of Regents. So, yes, Pillen will be the one appointing his own replacement.