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NAU student leaders likely to pass resolution opposing ASA's lawsuit against ABOR

The NAU student body senate delayed a decision Monday regarding an official declaration of its opposition to legal action against the Arizona Board of Regents by a statewide student lobbying group.

However, the resolution is expected to pass, according to NAU student government officials.

Student leaders at Arizona State University have already spoken out against the litigation. If the Associated Students of Northern Arizona University pass the resolution, student government bodies across the state will be formally divided over the unfolding legal battle between the regents and the Arizona Students’ Association, an organization that lobbies the state Legislature on behalf of higher education.

A special session planned for Monday night did not take place because there were not enough NAU senators present to meet the required two-thirds majority for a quorum, said Ryan Lee, chair of the Associated Students of Northern Arizona University Senate.

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Instead, the official vote will take place at the ASNAU Senate’s regular meeting Thursday afternoon, but the resolution will likely pass, Lee said.

“This resolution is being supported by President [Sammy] Smart, as well as the executive committee, written by the senate, with approval of about nine senators,” Lee said. “Of the 12 [senators], nine spoke out in favor of the resolution in concern with litigation.”

ASA filed a suit last week against the Board of Regents, on the heels of the board’s decision to require students to agree to a $2-per-semester fee collected on behalf of ASA prior to payment.

By a wide majority, ASA’s Board of Directors agreed to take legal action against the Board of Regents, if necessary, in December. But in February, NAU representatives proposed halting litigation. ASA directors rejected the resolution.

Although Katy Murray, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, has declared her support for the lawsuit against the regents, members of the ASUA Senate are questioning
ASA’s decision and have plans to address the situation soon.

“I can tell you that there are a lot of people that are working on something right now,” said Sen. Morgan Abraham. “It’s just, we don’t want to rush it. This is such an important decision and such an important matter that we want to make sure whatever is brought forth to the table is the best it can possibly be.”

The purpose of the lawsuit is to “redress the violation of the free speech rights of the Arizona Students’ Association by the Arizona Board of Regents,” according to the official ASA complaint.

Controversy first erupted around ASA last fall, as the result of a $120,000 donation the organization made to a political campaign in support of Proposition 204. Proposition 204, which failed in November, would have renewed a one-cent sales tax for education funding.

When ASU students began questioning the organization, the regents voted to suspend the ASA fee in November, pending a final decision this semester.

Within its complaint, ASA alleges that the Board of Regents’ “suspended and modified its policies governing its collection of the ASA student fee based upon the content of ASA’s political speech in support of Proposition 204 and in violation of ASA’s free speech rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution to the United States.”

Murray did not return requests for comment regarding the ASNAU Senate’s decision.

“NAU as a majority supports the belief of ASA, but they do not support litigation,” Lee said. “How is it that you can support the organization but not their actions? That is the whole controversy right now that is surrounding the state and that’s really why ASU pulled out. They didn’t support the actions of ASA and then ASNAU doesn’t support the litigation, so this is going to be a very interesting situation for us.”


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Updated December 8, 2021