LGBT seat put to campus re-vote

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SPECTRUM members Harvey Luna, Kathrina Macalanda, Shelbi Smith and Colton Donica campaigned for the bill. (Courtesy of Shelbi Smith)

The LGBT seat debate isn’t over yet.

Student Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation supporting a LGBT seat three weeks ago in a 34-3 voiced senator vote, but a student body referendum last week killed the bill before it could officially pass.

A signature petition led by the LGBT community will now force the student body to re-vote on the issue next week.

I think that students should want to pass this measure to institutionalize the affirmation of the LGBT community,” former SPECTRUM President Harvey Luna said. “We have seen the administration make great strides in affirming the LGBT community… It’s time the student body does the same.”

The LGBT Seat legislation has visited the Student Senate floor several times. Former student Tom Elliot introduced the bill in 2009, but logistic issues prevented Senate members from lending the bill support.

Senators feared students could not acknowledge their sexuality without outting themselves to parents. But accommodations made through Access,
protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), made bill authors Jaywin Malhi and Ramon Trespalacios comfortable with re-introducing the bill.

“When I was a First-Year Senator, the bill… failed by just a few votes. At that time, we were ranked by the Princeton Review as one of the most anti-LGBT-friendly campuses in the country, and a lot has changed since then,” Malhi said. “But we still have progress to make.”

Progress for Malhi and a number of supporters on campus means getting the bill to pass. When the referendum failed to pass the legislation, SPECTRUM and LGBT community members rallied for re-vote with a petition.

For a re-vote to occur, a petition must have at least 1,053 signatures, or 10 percent of the student population support. By Monday, the petition had close to 1,400 signatures.

“Many of people were fired up after hearing the results of the referendum and were ready to do the necessary groundwork because of their passion for this issue,” Luna said. “This [couldn’t be] possible without the teamwork of these amazing SMU students.”

The bill still requires a 2/3 majority vote from the student body. Luna and Malhi suspect the bill originally failed to pass because student’s were unaware of the bill’s effects.

Luna said a LGBT seat could encourage Senate to address more LGBT issues, such as gender neutral housing, inclusive curriculum and hate crime prevention programs. Malhi said a LGBT seat could put SMU on the right side of history.

We have the chance to be a trailblazer in the South and establish this seat well before most of our peer schools follow suit,” he said. “If we establish an LGBT seat, what we are essentially saying to our campus, city, country, and world is that LGBT students are an integral part of our campus.”

Student Senate already has special interest seats devoted to the African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, International student and Transfer student communities at SMU.

The re-vote for a LGBT special interest seat will take place online at smu.edu/elections April 23 and 24. Students interested in campaigning for the LGBT seat are encouraged e-mail hluna@smu.edu.

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