On Tuesday, the SMU Student Senate voted in favor of adding a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) seat to the chamber after 10 years of defeat. The Senate will send the referendum to the student body vote likely by next week. It will require a two-thirds majority. The Editorial Board believes this is a good step.
The Senate has a SPECTRUM liaison, who has been Harvey Luna for the past four years. However, this current system discourages closeted students from approaching Senate with possible issues. With an LGBT senator, students who want to keep their sexual orientation private would be able to discreetly approach the senator with their concerns. Additionally, students who are not members of SPECTRUM will also be able to bring their ideas to the Senate. The seat would allow more students to voice their opinions to the Senate, and allow their privacy to be protected if desired.
In 2011, current Student Body President Ramon Trespalacios, then Senators Austin Prentice and Alex Mace all voted against adding the LGBT seat to Senate. They were concerned about student privacy. Since then, a system has been devised that will protect privacy while allowing the necessary information to be gathered.
For special interest Student Senate seats, only students who are members of the special interest group are allowed to vote for that specific senator. For example, only students who label themselves as Hispanic in Access can vote for the Hispanic-American senator. This rule would also apply to the LGBT senator.
The University Registrar will have a question on Access where students can identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Students can opt out of the question and it will be protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). A student’s parents will also have no way of knowing if or how their child answered the question. While a student’s answer is protected under FERPA, the university would still need to file the information for the purpose of student elections. This could raise potential issues in across-the-board representation.
On the other hand, there are plenty of students who comfortably share their sexual orientation. According to its orgs.smu page, SPECTRUM has 50 members, some of whom may be straight. It is also likely that there are other students on campus who are openly members of the LGBT community, but who are not members of activist organizations. Overall, we’ll have to see the election process in action to determine how effective the Access question will be.
The Editorial Board believes the Student Senate should add an LGBT seat. The seat would allow more members of the LGBT community to voice their ideas and concerns to Senate. As SMU strives to unite community facets and bring the university together as a cohesive whole, equal representation is a clear and necessary step. While this move to represent a significant portion of the community should have likely been enacted years sooner, we applaud our current Senate for stepping up to the plate and making the first real efforts to make the LGBT seat a reality.
Opinions expressed in each unsigned editorial represent a consensus decision of the editorial board. All other columns reflect the views of individual authors and not necessarily those of the editorial staff.