A&M faculty urge administration to break ‘silence’ on GLBT center controversy

Posted on: May 10th, 2011 by Mary Lee Grant No Comments

The faculty of the Texas A&M University anthropology department wrote a letter this week asking the university administration to address recent events surrounding the GLBT Resource Center by issuing a statement in support of the GLBT community and other under-represented groups. The letter , in particular, criticized the secret recording of GLBT meetings on YouTube by Texas Aggie Conservatives, who then posted the videos on their website.

The letter also condemns a recent student senate bill backed by the Aggie Conservatives that would create a “family values center” to offset the GLBT Center. Although the bill was defeated this week, the group says they will continue to try to promote a center for “Aggies for True Love and Marriage” to promote straight, conservative values on the A&M campus.

“We as faculty, condemn the recent TAMU Student Senate Bill 63-106 (Sexual Education Equality in Funding Bill),” the anthropologists stated in their letter. “By suggesting that students seeking guidance from the GLBT Resource Center are not represented by the terms “family,” “tradition” or “values,” this bill blatantly goes against Texas A&M’s commitment to a diverse, unified campus that incorporates multiple perspectives as part of Aggie tradition and values.”

The battle among Aggies over the GLBT center arose in response to a Texas House budget amendment by state Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center) mandating that universities spend an equal amount of “appropriated funds” on a traditional values center if they fund a GLBT center. The amendment was supported by the A&M student senate before being vetoed by the student body president. Conservatives attempted to overturn the veto, but failed.

However, as the Texas Independent has previously reported, the GLBT centers at A&M and UT are almost wholly funded by student service fees and private donations, which are not classified as appropriated funds, according to the Legislative Budget Board.

The anthropology letter condemns the silence of the administration in light of the posting of secret YouTube videos on the conservative site.

“Other recent events — such as the secret recording and then broadcasting of GLBT meetings on YouTube — ostracize GLBT students from the safe space that the TAMU campus should be for all students,” the letter states. “Such events, and TAMU administration’s silence in the wake of these events, reflect the institutional forces that limit the representation of and support for historically marginalized and disempowered groups in our university. We acknowledge that these current events have incited a sense of fear and mistrust among the GLBT community. We reach out with empathy to all those affected and remain committed to addressing injustice as members of the campus community and as anthropologists. Further, we hold the administration accountable for addressing this issue in a timely manner.”

The Aggie Conservatives say the GLBT center is supporting immorality. They have posted videos on their website, including one taken at a GLBT “fun sex seminar” on “butt play.” They have also criticized the GLBT center for a seminar teaching about oral sex. The conservatives said the butt play video promotes the teaching of “disgusting and very risky sex between the unmarried.” The site warns that the video “is probably too sick for any sane person to watch. But since your student fees went to this, we think you should know.”

The anthropology faculty offered in it its letter to assist the university in:

“creating and enacting institutional policies that will make TAMU more accessible to and hospitable for all members of our community. We view the recent events surrounding the GLBT as signs that TAMU administration and faculty must do more in order to achieve these goals. We urge the administration to act on its commitments to ensure that the cultural equity and diversity are integral to our campus. We ask that the administration provide accountability by releasing a statement expressing the University’s commitment to GLBT and other underrepresented groups.”

The letter follows on the heels of another call for the administration to respond to the issue, written by graduate students earlier this week. A&M Vice president for Diversity Christine Stanley did not return phone calls on the subject Monday afternoon.

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