SMU students vote down LGBT senate seat

SMUAfter the Southern Methodist University Student Senate voted last week to approve an LGBT student senate seat, the student body voted the proposal down.

Adding a senate seat required approval by two-thirds of the voters. The election was held on Thursday, and only 53 percent of those voting were in favor of adding the seat. Of SMU’s 11,000 students, only about 2,000 voted.

“However, 53 percent is not a two-thirds majority and it does not get us representation in senate,” Shelbi Smith, vice president of SMU’s LGBT group Spectrum, said. “It does not change the everyday reality for LGBT students who are discriminated against at SMU.”

Smith called this a set-back, but explained the proposal isn’t completely dead for this semester.

“Now, we have to collect 1,100 signatures on a petition to get a re-vote,” Smith said. “We are hoping to get the signatures in time to have a re-vote before the end of the semester. Otherwise, we start from ground zero next year.”

She called the vote by the Senate “a huge victory.” In previous years, the Senate voted down the proposal, in some years by large margins. This is the first time the proposal went to students for a vote.

“This is about so much more than a senate seat,” Smith said. “This is about equality. This is about making LGBT people feel welcome and included at our great university.”

—  David Taffet

SMU Senate votes to add LGBT seat after years of battle

SMUThe SMU Senate voted 34-3 to add an LGBT seat to the student governing body, according to SMU’s The Daily Campus. The issue must now go for a vote before the entire student body and requires a two-thirds vote.

This has been a contentious issue that has been debated and defeated every year since first introduced by student Tom Elliott in 2009. Several other Senate seats are reserved for groups of minority students. Others are designated for off-campus residents, specific dorms and frats and sororities.

One issue that previous Senates dealt with is identifying LGBT students — whether they needed to belong to one of the on-campus LGBT groups, if anyone who self-identified as LGBT could participate or if any student, including allies or even opponents trying to throw the race, could simply register to vote in that race.

During this period, SMU was voted a “most homophobic” school by Princeton Review each year, and the high-profile battle over this seat probably added to the perception of anti-gay discrimination on campus.

Elliott graduated in 2010 and now works in Chicago. He remembered how he felt after the defeat.

“It was disappointing since there was such a strong show of support by faculty, staff and students,” Elliott said. “Even with people coming in to talk to the Senate, it failed by a large margin.”

He said after he graduated, freshman Harvey Luna picked up the fight.

Elliott warned that the work’s not over since the student body must vote.

“It’s very important for people working on this to mobilize support on campus,” Elliott said.

—  David Taffet

SMU’s David Chard to chair National Board for Education Sciences


Dean David Chard

David Chard, openly gay dean of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, was elected by fellow board members as chairman of the National Board for Education Sciences, effective immediately.

The U.S. Senate approved President Obama’s nomination of Chard to the board in 2012. The 15-member board oversees and directs the work of the Institute of Education Sciences.

“Schools throughout the nation will benefit from David Chard’s leadership of this important board,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His support of evidence-based education practices will help ensure that proven teaching strategies make their way to the classroom.”

The institute collects and analyzes education research data and funds researchers nationwide who are working to improve education outcomes for all students, particularly those at risk. In addition, the institute produces the Nation’s Report Card.

As chair, Chard succeeds Bridget Terry Long from the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she is academic dean and the Xander Professor of Education.

“We can’t talk about how important education is to the future of our country when we invest so little in knowing what works and for whom it works in the classroom,” Chard said. “Taxpayer dollars have to be wisely invested in education research, and the results of research must be incorporated into our classrooms and schools.”

Chard is a frequently published education scholar and former public school teacher. He has served as dean of the Simmons School since 2007.  He came to SMU from the University of Oregon, where he was associate dean for the College of Education. Under his leadership, the Simmons School has greatly expanded its research.

—  David Taffet

SMU male rape case dismissed

John David Mahaffey

John David Mahaffey

The Dallas Morning News reports that the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed charges against a former SMU student who was accused of sexually assaulting another male student.

John David Mahaffey was arrested in September after the alleged victim told police Mahaffey had forced him to perform oral sex at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house and at a nearby campus parking garage

The DA’s office dismissed the case last week in a one-page motion saying, ““Upon review of all facts associated with the case by Cresta Garland, Assistant District Attorney, it has been determined that there is no probable cause to support an element of the offense.”

UPDATE: The Morning News (subscription only) has more on the story behind the dismissal, including the alleged victim’s reaction.

—  John Wright

Judge Tonya Parker among honorees at SMU’s Women’s Symposium


Judge Tonya Parker

Lesbian Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker is among six women who will be honored at SMU’s Women’s Symposium on Wednesday.

Parker, who took a stand for marriage equality last year when she divulged her policy of not performing heterosexual marriages, was selected as a Profiles in Leadership Award recipient. The award recognizes accomplishments made by women that had a significant impact on Dallas and on the quality of life of women.

The symposium, themed “Mind the Age Gap,” is all day tomorrow with workshops focused on how to unite women of all ages to work together on women’s issues.

Brent Paxton, administrative coordinator for SMU’s Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives, informs us that online registration for the symposium has officially closed. Paxton says the general public can still register at the door to attend, but it will be first come, first serve. Lunch is $40 and dinner is $60.

“I just recounted our registrants and we have plenty of room,” Paxton added. “Please spread the good word and tell people to come.”


—  Dallasvoice

Scalia claims he’s never expressed his views on marriage equality

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, right, reads from his new book, ‘Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,’ alongside SMU professor and co-author Bryan Garner. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told an audience at Southern Methodist University on Monday night that he hasn’t previously “expressed [his] views” on marriage equality or gun control.

The comment came while Scalia and SMU professor Bryan Garner were lecturing on their new book, Reading Law: Interpretations of Legal Texts. Part of the lecture focused on interpreting texts in the context in which they were written.

Garner explained that someone can personally disagree with a text but can agree on its interpretation. He explained that he and Scalia differ on gun control and marriage equality because he favors both. Scalia countered that he hadn’t expressed his views on either topic and left it at that.

Scalia’s statement seems at odds with his dissenting opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which declared state sodomy laws unconstitutional. In the opinion Scalia wrote:

“State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.”

—  Dallasvoice

Anti-gay U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to speak at SMU tonight

SMU professor Bryan A. Garner, left, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will be at Southern Methodist University tonight to discuss his new book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts.

SMU professor and the book’s co-author Bryan A. Garner will join Scalia for the discussion.

It was during a similar lecture at Princeton University in December that Scalia was asked by a gay student about his anti-gay views and how he equates anti-sodomy laws to those banning murder. Scalia said he was drawing a moral parallel between the laws and legislative bodies should ban things viewed as immoral.

Scalia will also serve as a Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence at SMU Dedman School of Law Monday and Tuesday, where he will speak to several law classes.

The lecture begins at 7 p.m. at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium. General admission tickets are $35. Tickets and a copy of the book are $50. Books will not be sold at the event, but Garner and Scalia will sign copies. To register, go here.

—  Dallasvoice

SMU adds transgender protections

SMUSouthern Methodist University has issued a new statement of nondiscrimination. The previous policy covered sexual orientation but not  gender identity and expression. The new policy reads:

SMU will not discriminate in any employment practice, education program, or educational activity on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, or veteran status. SMU’s commitment to equal opportunity includes nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

The policy reportedly went into effect on Jan. 1 after being approved in December. SMU is believed to be the first four-year university in North Texas with a fully inclusive policy. For the first time in several years, SMU was not included in the Princeton Review’s 2012 list of most homophobic campuses.

Dallas County Community College added gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policy last year.

Representatives from SMU couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the change.

—  David Taffet

SMU sexual assault shines light on male victims who break their silence

John David Mahaffey

The arrest of a male SMU student last week for allegedly sexually assaulting a male acquaintance sheds light on the small percentage of male victims who actually report such assaults.

John David Mahaffey, 19, was arrested after the victim, also a student, told SMU police he was forced to perform oral sex on Mahaffey in a parking garage at 3050 SMU Blvd., which is the address of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity where Mahaffey was a member.

Mahaffey has been banned from campus and suspended from the fraternity.

Jana Barker, executive director at Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center, said national statistics show that 3 percent of men will experience or commit rape in their lifetime. She said among male rape victims, only about 7 percent will report the sexual assault. Barker said gay men are often targets of sexual assault because of their sexual orientation.

No statistics could be found on the number of gay men who are raped and the number of male rapes on college campuses.

Many men never come forward to report the encounters because of the stigma of being raped and being a man and often because they feel they are targeted because they have gay tendencies, Barker said. Some male victims question their sexual orientation afterward.

She said male victims also believe only gay men commit rape, but that is untrue.

“Rape is about power and control,” she said. “It’s not sex. It’s violence.”

Police later recorded a phone call between the victim and Mahaffey during which Mahaffey told the victim he should say the encounters were consensual.

Mahaffey is part of prominent SMU legacy. His great-great grandfather was a member of SMU’s founding committee and one of its first professors, NBC 5 reports. His grandmother, father and two aunts are alumni.

SMU spokesman Kent Best said the university isn’t commenting beyond a written statement because the investigation is ongoing.

“On Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, SMU Police arrested an SMU student for an alleged sexual assault that occurred Sept. 23, 2012, on the SMU campus,” the statement reads. “SMU Police will present the findings of its investigation to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. The student is temporarily banned from campus pending further investigation.”

The U.S. Justice Department extended the definition of rape in January to include male rape. The definition had only stated that men who forcibly have sex with women was rape, excluding men who rape men and forced oral sex.

—  Dallasvoice

Sandra Fluke to speak at SMU

Sandra Fluke

Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student attacked by Rush Limbaugh for her support of including contraception in healthcare coverage, will appear at Southern Methodist University on Sept. 24.

Fluke will speak on contraception, women’s health and the media. Following her talk, she will participate in a panel discussion, “Economics and Equality: How Obstacles to Women’s Health Care Access Affect Us All.”

On the panel with Fluke will be Charles Curran, SMU professor of human values; Linda Eads, SMU associate provost and law professor; and Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Texas.

The panel is sponsored by SMU’s Women’s and Gender Studies program.

Fluke was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte earlier this month. She gained national attention in February when she testified before Congress. Republicans blocked her appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the new administration rules on conscience clause exceptions in health care. She spoke only to House Democrats.

Following her appearance, Limbaugh called her a slut and a prostitute and said that he wanted to see videos of her having sex posted on the Internet. After three days of verbal assaults and the loss of more than 40 advertisers, Limbaugh apologized for his choice of words.

“I don’t think that a statement like this, saying that his choice of words was not the best, changes anything, and especially when that statement is issued when he’s under significant pressure from his sponsors who have begun to pull their support from the show,” Fluke responded. She called his barrage of insults an attempt to silence her.

Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater, 3140 Dyer St. (lower level), Sept. 24 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Free and open to the public.

—  David Taffet