SMU students will vote again on LGBT Senate seat

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Spectrum’s Kathrina Macalanda solicits a signature from Ryan Patrick McLaughlin

Over the weekend, Southern Methodist University students collected enough signatures to get a revote on whether to add an LGBT Student Senate seat.

After the Student Senate voted in March to add the seat, the student body needed to pass the measure by a two-thirds vote. Only 53 percent voted April 3 for the amendment to the Student Constitution. To get another vote, supporters needed to collect signatures from 10 percent of the student body, which is 1,053 people.

“I am excited to report that we actually surpassed that goal,” former Spectrum President Harvey Luna said. “We collected about 1,400 signatures.”

Normally, the issue would be put to students this week, but faculty is using the website link this week for their own elections. Instead, the amendment to add the LGBT seat will be put to students next week.

“In the meantime, we are going to begin strategizing on advertising the issue on campus — tabling, flyers, buttons, etc.,” Luna said.

 

—  David Taffet

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

Baylor’s student Senate removes ‘homosexual acts’ from conduct code

UniversityprofilesBaylorBearsMembers of Baylor University’s student Senate voted Thursday night to change discriminatory language in the university’s Sexual Misconduct Code.

The current code states that sexuality is a gift from God and “misuses of God’s gift will be understood to include but not limit to, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication, and homosexual acts.”

The Sexual Misconduct Code Non-Discrimination Act removed “homosexual acts” from the code and replaced it with the phrase “non-marital consensual deviate sexual intercourse.” Further action is required by the Baylor University Board of Regents before the change can be made.

While the code also states that sexuality is  “achieved through heterosexual relationships within marriage,” students who supported the act said it was intended to remove discriminatory language and make gays feel more welcome on campus, the university’s student paper, Baylor Lariat, reports.

As a Christian university, Baylor’s doctrine has always and still states that homosexuality is wrong for Biblical reasons, and the bill wouldn’t change the formal views of the administration. Baylor has made Princeton Review’s “most gay-unfriendly” list for years.

But senior Kimani Mitchell told the student paper that the change in wording wouldn’t target gays anymore.

“We are simply clarifying language here,” Mitchell said. “In our world we don’t always take words semantically. They are taken with a pragmatic view, which is the connotation associated with the view. This word is discriminating. Discrimination contextually and culturally is a bad thing.”

Senior Grant Senter said the change would show acceptance by the school’s student body, even if mindsets haven’t changed.

“This is not just about a technical change,” Senter said. “This is about the entire picture of the university and what it means to be a homosexual on campus. Are you protected? Do we care for you? Do we reach out to you with Christ’s love? At this point no. What I think this bill does is take a step towards a more caring, Jesus loving community.”

Earlier this year, Baylor senior Susan Duty helped the city of Waco, where Baylor is located, add sexual orientation and gender identity to its Equal Employment Opportunity policy for city employees.

—  Dallasvoice

UPDATE: TAMU Senate upholds veto of anti-gay bill, kills pro-LGBT resolution

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UPDATE, 10 p.m.: The Senate has postponed the resolution in support of the GLBT Center, which effectively kills it, according to gay campus activist Camden Breeding. However, the Senate also upheld the veto of the anti-gay bill passed two weeks ago.

ORIGINAL POST: Two weeks after an anti-gay bill passed Texas A&M’s Student Senate to defund the campus GLBT Resource Center, senators are hoping to pass a resolution supporting the center.

The resolution, entitled, “The GLBT Resource Center Support Resolution,” aims to show support for the value of the campus center, as well as support “continued funding for the services that the GLBT Resource Center provides.”

Student Senator Robbie Cimmino said he spearheaded the resolution to show the community that the center is a needed resource that helps students come out, as well as educate them and support them when they come out.

“It isn’t about being gay for us,” Cimmino said. “It’s about being a resource for people who need it.”

He said the anti-gay bill drew 400 students to the Senate meeting and made LGBT students feel targeted. The student body president later vetoed the bill, which would have allowed students to opt out of funding the center with their activity fees if they had religious objections.

“There was a lot of tension and a lot of people felt discriminated against,” he said, adding that many senators who supported the bill for religious reasons didn’t realize the impact it would have on students.

Cimmino said many senators who backed the anti-gay bill will likely back the resolution after seeing the campus response.

“I think people will be genuinely supportive,” he said.

Camden Breeding, former president of the GLBT Aggies, said he also thinks the resolution will gain support when senators vote on it tonight.

“There’s a fair amount of support already,” Breeding said. “I’m hopeful.”

“This is an opportunity to enhance the campus climate for the LGBT community,” he added.

Read the resolution below.

—  Dallasvoice

Spectrum again seeks LGBT senator at SMU

Members of gay student group speak out after registrar cuts off talks over diversity seat proposal

SEEKING REPRESENTATION  |  Spectrum members, from left, Jessica Barner, Eric Douglas, Danielle Palomo, Breanna Diaz, Jakob Schwarz and Kristen Baker-Fletcher outside an SMU Student Senate meeting this week. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

SEEKING REPRESENTATION  | Spectrum members, from left, Jessica Barner, Eric Douglas, Danielle Palomo, Breanna Diaz, Jakob Schwarz and Kristen Baker-Fletcher outside an SMU Student Senate meeting this week. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK — Progress toward an LGBT Student Senate seat at Southern Methodist University came to a halt last week when the school registrar cut off talks with Karen Click, director of the Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives.

“I need to put this project on hold for a while, as I don’t have the resources now,” Joe Papari, SMU’s director of enrollment services for student systems and technology, wrote in an email to Click.

Papari couldn’t be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, members of the LGBTQA student group Spectrum addressed the Student Senate to ask for help in restarting the talks about a Senate seat.

“Show how progressive our campus can be,” Spectrum President Harvey Luna urged the Senate.

Tom Elliott, who now works for the Travis County Democratic Party in Austin,  first brought the idea of an LGBT seat to the Senate in 2009 when he was a senior.

Elliot said when he served on the Senate’s Diversity Committee, it dealt with finding more resources for minorities and better ways to recruit new students from those communities.

He thought that with the negative publicity SMU gets from the Princeton Review rating of the school as one of the 20 most homophobic campuses in the U.S., an LGBT senator would send a positive signal to potential incoming students that while the student body remains conservative and seems lacking in diversity, everyone is actually welcome at SMU.

The Princeton ranking is based on student surveys. In many ways, SMU doesn’t fit the profile of other schools on the list. SMU is the only school on the list with inclusive nondiscrimination policies, domestic partner benefits for employees, sanctioned LGBT student groups and openly gay faculty and staff who are embraced by the administration.

In December 2009, the Student Senate voted against adding the LGBT diversity seat. The vote was 19-19, but a three-fourths majority was needed to pass the resolution that would have then gone to the entire student body for a vote.

But the perception of the school remains one where gays and lesbians are not welcome, according to members of Spectrum who believe that a diversity seat would help change that.

Last year, Spectrum again urged the Senate to add the seat but they again voted it down citing the difficulty in identifying LGBT students and uncertainty about how many students the senator would represent.

“They were concerned with numbers,” said Spectrum member Eric Douglas. “They threw out 150 as a number.”

He laughed at the idea that on a campus with 11,000 students, fewer than 150 would be LGBT.

Senate Secretary Martha Pool said that there’s concern about double representation and questioned all diversity seats.

“Special interests are supposed to have liaisons,” she said. “There’s supposed to be a senator [assigned to] every student group. That way, everyone is fairly represented.”

However, no one from Spectrum who attended the Senate meeting on Tuesday had ever met a senator assigned to their group.

Spectrum member Kristen Baker-Fletcher objected to the idea that a senator who isn’t a member of the LGBT community could represent those students well.

She mocked the idea, characterizing it as, “We have efficient people who can speak for you.”

Spectrum’s activist chair Breanna Diaz said that a diversity senator would represent all LGBT students, not just the few who belong to one of the school’s several gay groups. She said an LGBT representative would bring issues to the Senate that aren’t currently being addressed, including health, mental health and safety.

Diaz said a major concern from last year seems to be resolved. In talks with the registrar, an optional slot could be added to the online student information profiles. Students could indicate their sexual orientation or gender identity on a confidential page. Those who self-identified as members of the LGBT community could vote for the diversity senator but wouldn’t have to belong to a campus LGBT organization.

Several senators asked whether a resolution to the registrar would make a difference.

Spectrum member Jakob Schwarz said, “The only leg the registrar’s office can stand on is that students don’t want it. A resolution by the Student Senate would be an indication of students do want.”

Click wasn’t sure that registration on the campus database was necessarily the answer.

“Is this the one stumbling block?” Click asked, adding that she doesn’t know the answer.

Click said the question of who would vote for the LGBT seat is complicated since a lot of allies attend Spectrum, many LGBT students don’t belong to any of the campus groups, and reaching out to them all is difficult because of the transience of an undergraduate population.

“There’s no easy fix,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

What’s Brewing: Texas A&M student body president vetoes anti-gay Student Senate bill

State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, says he doesn’t know what the impact of his anti-gay budget amendment would be: “Ask the attorneys,” he says.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Texas A&M Student Body President Jacob Robinson has vetoed an anti-gay measure passed by the Student Senate last week aimed at slashing funding for the school’s LGBT resource center. The Student Senate voted 22-21 in favor of the bill supporting a state budget amendment by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, that would require schools with LGBT resource centers to spend an equal amount on centers for “family and traditional values.” Meanwhile, Christian told the American Independent that he doesn’t even know what the impact of his budget amendment would be: “I am interested in finding out the legal opinion — does our bill also instruct them with what to do with private funds? I am not sure, that’s something to ask attorneys, so no, I don’t know the answer.” How do you introduce a budget amendment without even knowing what its impact will be? What kind of fiscal responsibility is that? The sad part is, the amendment passed the Texas House by a vote of 110-24. The state Senate is expected to take up the appropriations bill, with Christian’s amendment attached, this week.

2. A San Antonio man who unsuccessfully tried to use the gay panic defense was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for fatally slashing the throat of a retired teacher with a cheese knife. Augustine Sauceda, 23, claims to be straight and says he committed the crime because the victim, 56-year-old Joe Ramon Jr., started groping him and wouldn’t take no for an answer. But that didn’t explain why Sauceda initially told police he was bisexual and had been at a gay bar the night before the murder. It also didn’t explain the fact that Ramon’s DNA was found on the victim’s flat-screen TV, suggesting that the real motive for the crime was robbery. In any case, 30 years still seems like a pretty light sentence, especially given that Sauceda will be eligible for parole after 15? Would he have gotten more time if the victim was straight?

3. Dallas police aren’t releasing any additional information about the murder of a gay Lake Highlands couple found dead inside their burned apartment early Wednesday. The victims names are being withheld pending positive identification of their bodies by the medical examiner, and authorities are still searching for a missing vehicle belonging to one of the victims. Police also continue to say that while they don’t believe the murders were a hate crime, they don’t really know what the motive was.

—  John Wright

Pink Noise: The Dallas Voice Podcast

This week we talked about the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s upcoming vote on transgender protections; Commissioner Maurine Dickey and Dickey’s Barbecue Pit; the Texas A&M Student Senate’s anti-gay vote this week; the controversial decision to charge admission for the Festival in Lee Park; Ricky Martin’s show in Dallas last night; and more.

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—  John Wright

An open letter to the Texas A&M Student Senate, signed ‘An Aggie No More’

A Texas A&M student holds up a sign during the “Hands Across Aggieland” Unity March on April 15. (From GLBT Aggies on Facebook)

Dear Senators:

I once thought that I was an Aggie. Next year will be my 5th year of study. I am a Presidential Endowed Scholar. I attended Fish Camp. I went to football games and yelled until my voice was dead and my ass was red. I joined a FLO. I started two organizations. I received the prestigious Buck Weirus Spirit Award for my contributions to this student body. I have made hundreds of friends, touched hundreds of Aggies’ lives and been touched by thousands more. Yes, I once thought that I was an Aggie.

On April 20th, 2011 the Student Senate made it clear that, in their eyes, I am an Aggie no more.

That day, the student senate told me that I was not worth as much as other Aggies. You told me that breaking the Aggie Honor Code and lying to my fellow students was preferable to you deciding to respect me for who I am. On that night, S.B. 63-106, otherwise known as the “Sexual Education Equality in Funding Bill” in support of Representative Wayne Christian’s amendment to HB 1 passed. And with its passage, the Student Senate made its position clear: that because I am gay, I am not truly an Aggie.

Now you may be saying to yourself that I’m being overly dramatic, that that was not your intention in passing that bill, or something else along those lines. Some of you may have stopped reading this letter as soon as you saw the words “I am gay”. I would expect nothing less from the 17th least friendly campus for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students in the country (according to the Princeton review). If you’re still reading, then allow me to explain why I don’t at all feel like I am being melodramatic and state my reasons for concluding that the Student Senate no longer views me as an Aggie:

—  admin