The next battle in the right’s war against young people is playing out in Arizona.
On April 5, Governor Jan Brewer signed into law HB 2169. The bill specifies that a university cannot transfer money to student organizations if that money will then be used to influence “the outcome of an election or to advocate support for or opposition to pending or proposed legislation. Additionally, if the bill were passed, a student enrolled in a university would have to consent to the transfer of their tuition or fees to a specified student organization. Without consent, the fees would not be transferred.
This bill is a clear act of retribution against the student association by Brewer and her allies. In last year’s election cycle, the Arizona Students Association (ASA) spent around $122,000 in support of Proposition 204, which would have approved a one cent tax increase for education spending. Instead of working with students to hold tuition down and fund affordable higher education, Brewer decided to attack students’ right to get involved in politics.
In the past, similar measures to ban the use of student fees in politics have failed in the Arizona state house. This time around, the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, threw its weight into the fight. In its report pushing for the ban on the use of student fees in politics, the institute named other states with strong student associations where similar legislation could be pursued.
As a student in Wisconsin, I have seen the damage done by a rogue state legislature and an over-zealous governor. The parallels are striking in the way they came for the unions in my state, and the way they are destroying student organizations in Arizona. As with anti-collective bargaining legislation in the Midwest, and defunding Planned Parenthood across the country, the Republicans are trying to suppress the voice of any group they can’t win over in elections.
Students and student organizations are being retaliated against for supporting unpopular positions with the right. The move comes at a time when Republicans nationally are trying to rebrand the party to reach out to young people. Statewide student associations, along with their national counterparts, are vital to establishing student’s voice in politics. These organizations spend most of their time educating young people about electoral and other political issues and registering them to vote.
Arizonans are not strangers to such hostile politics. SB 1070 set the precedent nationwide for anti-immigrant legislation. Now students are feeling the heat as the right sets a target and continues to pick off their political opposition one-by-one. This time it’s in Arizona—but next time it could be anywhere.
Max Berger and Jackson Foote contributed to this piece.