By Carl McClain
Let’s set aside all arguments surrounding the LGBT senate seat, campus homophobia, etc., and concentrate on one simple idea: treating elections seriously.
Through our student body officers, Senators, and Constitution, we can democratically discuss and influence the major issues affecting the student body. We hold annual elections and expect our votes to be honored. How does this relate to the (now) two failed referendums on the LGBT senate seat?
The day of the first referendum, held alongside student body elections, I personally agonized over the LGBT senator question for about five minutes. I could not reconcile my beliefs or my conscience for either side, so I abstained (leaving the box blank). If the measure passed, I would be content. But I felt proud for casting an honest vote along with 2,000 fellow students. While most voters agreed to create an LGBT senate position, the measure failed. I felt sorry for SPECTRUM and like-minded activists who put together a huge “yes” campaign running for weeks, only to face a narrow defeat. Yet, imagine my surprise when asked to vote yet again, on the same issue, three weeks later. I’m sure many felt a certain deja vu.
This second time I spent all of 20 seconds imputing my firm “no” vote: someone needed to stand against such an electoral disgrace. After the first referendum, instead of reflecting on the result or regrouping for next year, the “yes” campaign immediately sought a “do-over”. By collecting enough signatures, they successfully put the LGBT seat question on its own special ballot for a second referendum. Now, the “yes” campaign overplayed its hand and in the process blatantly disregarded an entire election.
What about the first referendum. Had we not made our voices heard? The “yes” campaign essentially declared the student body voted incorrectly, and must immediately vote again. Only, this plan backfired when vile opposition (mostly from Yik Yak), turned out a stronger “no” vote. But the “yes” side has only itself to blame in this second defeat. Treating voters so callously is dangerous. Will we need to vote again before finals? Is every lost election simply a means to hold another until the right result is achieved?
Elections are not about correcting results, no matter how disheartening.
Opponents of referendum No. 2 are more than just bigoted homophobes: it includes people declaring, “I spoke up last time, now will you leave me alone?”
LGBT activists should not look upon these results as failures. If anything the referendums are major successes. Remember in 2009 the Student Senate proved unable to pass a similar amendment, and just this year it passed overwhelmingly 34-3. Referendums serve as barometers of public opinion, and twice SPECTRUM’s cause carried the day: 59 percent and 52 percent of students agreed to establish an LGBT senate seat to promote campus equality. This is a far cry from SMU’s pedestal as one of the most “LGBT-unfriendly” universities in the country: now active students are rejecting that legacy. Spectrum should be proud that SMU’s “homophobia” represents a shrinking minority opinion.
But constitutions, like opinions, are slow to change. Our Constitution requires two-thirds of the student body to vote yes on an amendment. I expect we will have another referendum next year, and that’s perfectly fine. Another positive, optimistic campaign might turn out more non-voters, and SPECTRUM might yet convince people like myself to get off the sidelines. Could the referendum pass next year? Who knows. But please, next time respect the will and opinion of the student body: one trip (per year) to this ballot box is enough.
McClain is a sophomore majoring in history.