SMU gets 4 stars for gay-friendliness

The group Campus Pride has given Southern Methodist University 4 out of 5 stars in its LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index. This stands in stark contrast to the Princeton Review’s ratings, which ranked SMU among the 20 most gay-unfriendly campuses in the country.

Karen Click, director of the SMU Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives, said of the Campus Pride rating, “What we’re doing, we get graded very high on.”

Click said Campus Pride is helpful with suggestions, and a faculty and staff LGBT group began as a result of a comment from last year’s survey.

She said that with housing, for example, other campuses offer to match a gay person with an LGBT-accepting person. SMU doesn’t offer that service yet.

Princeton Review bases its score entirely on student surveys. Campus Pride looks at school policies and activities. But in student life, the group gave SMU 5 stars. Below is the breakdown of SMU’s rating from Campus Pride:

—  David Taffet

UT to add gender-neutral bathrooms

The University of Texas at Austin will include at least one gender-neutral bathroom in every new campus building and convert some bathrooms in older buildings, according to the UT Daily Campus.

Gender-neutral bathrooms are becoming more common on college campuses around the country, mostly because they are advocated by LGBT groups.

But as the story points out, gender-neutral bathrooms don’t just benefit transgender people. For example, they give people with medical conditions such as diabetes a private place to administer their medication, and allow opposite-sex attendants to accompany disabled people.

Transgender students are a primary focus of the new facilities at UT, though. Students who don’t conform to gender norms might feel uncomfortable or threatened in men’s or women’s bathrooms.

Associate Vice President Linda Millstone of the Office of Institutional Equity and Workforce Diversity is leading the initiative. She said that in many buildings, there are already small bathrooms with only one or two stalls. So the only needed changes would be replacing signs and adding locks.

—  David Taffet

LGBT community must call on Texas A&M leaders to send message that hatred won’t be tolerated

Administration remains silent in wake of attack on resource center

By TIFFANY CREECY and JOSH COLLINS

In April 2011, Texas State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, proposed Amendment 143 to House Bill 1 — an amendment demanding that public universities that fund centers for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students also provide an equal amount of funding for student centers that promote “traditional and family values.” The amendment passed 110-24. Though it is unclear whether the Texas Legislature will include the amendment in its final budget, its introduction has created unnecessarily hostile discourse about GLBT issues at Texas A&M University.

Christian’s amendment inspired a group of A&M student senators to author a bill with identical objectives: SB 63-106, “The Sexual Education Equality in Funding” bill. While student governments at other public universities in Texas (e.g., University of Texas at Austin and University of Houston) have openly, adamantly, and clearly rejected the intentions of the Texas Legislature, A&M’s SB 63-106 passed with a vote of 21-21, with the speaker of the Senate breaking the tie in favor of the bill. The Student Government Association at the University of Houston called for the Texas governor to veto the state amendment, citing potential harm to the university’s already-existing diversity initiatives — initiatives similar to the ones in existence at Texas A&M, which have long been met with opposition by conservative Aggie student groups.

Immediately after the passing of SB 63-106, Texas A&M students both in favor of and in opposition to the bill expressed impassioned viewpoints that quickly manifested in emotional and aggressive debates. The fervor of these debates was further heightened by the publication of four GLBT-related articles in the student newspaper, The Battalion. GLBT/Ally students felt empowered by the publication of articles with positive representations of GLBT individuals, especially following the events of GLBT Awareness Week, which took place April 1-15. Some non-GLBT/Ally students felt that the articles contributed to an imbalanced, liberal-leaning perspective on the rise at Texas A&M. Many students from both perspectives on the issue have unfortunately engaged in hostile communications and the use of unwarranted personal attacks.

Texas A&M Student Body President Jacob Robinson vetoed the decision to pass the bill, sending it back to the Student Senate — where it failed to receive the two-thirds majority required to override Robinson’s veto. However, the damage to campus climate as a result of the bill had already been done. Tension between GLBT/Ally students, faculty, and staff and some of the bill’s more vocal supporters has never been higher. The Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center no longer feels like the safe space that it used to be, and although it appears, for the time being, that no funding will be cut and a center for “family and traditional values” will not be established, what has been most alarming about the events that have unfolded over the last month is the lack of public, GLBT-supportive responses from university officials. In perhaps the most critical moment for GLBT Aggies since they won the right to have a student organization on campus in the 1980s, the university has failed to send the message that homophobia, heterosexism, and hatred for the GLBT community will not be tolerated.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: GLAAD slams SNL commercial; UT study on gay cheating; civil unions in Illinois

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. GLAAD is outraged over a Saturday Night Live spoof commercial for “Estro-Maxxx,” which the organization says mocked the lives of transgender people. If the commercial were the least bit funny, we’d accuse GLAAD of not having a sense of humor. GLAAD is demanding that the commercial be pulled from Hulu and all future airings of the show. At the same time, the controversy ensures that thousands of smart people who don’t watch SNL because it’s not funny will see the commercial, which is above.

2. Half of men would forgive their female partner for cheating with another woman, while only 21 percent of women would forgive their male partner for cheating with another man, according to a study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. This could mean  straight guys are more forgiving and tolerant of homosexuality than straight women, or it could mean they’re just pigs who see a lesbian affair as an opportunity for a three-way.

3. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will sign a civil unions bill today, in a ceremony that’s expected to draw a capacity crowd of about 900 gays. Meanwhile, a Wyoming House committee voted down a civil unions bill on Friday.

—  John Wright

UT president publicly backs DP benefits

William Powers Jr.
William Powers Jr.

William Powers Jr., the president of the University of Texas at Austin, came out publicly in support of domestic partner benefits for UT employees for the first time this weekend, according to The Daily Texan student newspaper.

“This is about equity, human rights and human beings, and it affects the competitiveness of our university when we recruit people. There are things, if we are creative, that can be done. This is important work. It’s wide-ranging work.”

Powers statements came during a welcome speech before the second annual Texas Equity Conference on Saturday in Austin. The Equity Conference is co-organized by the Pride and Equity Faculty and Staff Association and Equality Texas.

—  John Wright