Two years ago, SMU finally climbed off the Princeton Review's list of the country's most "LGBT-unfriendly" schools. The news was welcomed by administrators, who have worked hard to shed the university's homophobic image, but it hardly meant that The Hilltop had suddenly become a bastion of progressive inclusiveness.
Case in point: The student body on Thursday voted down a measure that would have added a permanent LGBT seat to the student senate, much like the seats already set aside for African American, Asian and transfer students.
The proposal, which had already been approved by the student senate, needed a two-thirds vote to pass; it received only 59 percent. A proposal to add a designated seat for graduated students, which was also on the ballot, passed easily.
To a certain degree, the fact that there was even a vote represents progress, says Shelbi Smith, co-president of Spectrum, SMU's LGBT student group. Previous attempts to add the seat (there have been at least a couple over the past decade) have been shot down in the senate. This time around, with the support of student body president Ramon Trespalacios and VP Jaywin Malhi, it passed.
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Still, the outcome is discouraging for LGBT advocates, doubly so because, according to Smith, it is a "pretty accurate representation of our campus culture." One need only examine the stalls of the nearest men's restroom to find evidence of lingering homophobia. Smith referenced an recent incident in which a male friend was harassed on campus by a group of SMU bros, who taunted him with shouts of "faggot."
Not that this has derailed the push for greater representation for gay and transgender students. Spectrum is pushing to get 1,100 students (i.e. 10 percent of the student body) to sign petition to have a revote.
The initial plan was to schedule it for next week's student senate runoff, but backers decided it would be more strategic to have the measure on its own ballot, the hope being that that those with a vested interest -- the LGBT community and its allies -- will show up while opponents will not.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.