It has been two years since I’ve traversed through Dallas Hall, but I’m not surprised at all by the recent uproar about the possibility of an LGBT special interest seat on Student Senate at SMU.
I can distinctly remember a particular day in a class on gender equality where SMU’s openness to the LGBT community quickly became the topic of conversation.
We discussed the biased question asked in one of those polling scales that rate LGBT friendliness on campus. SMU was rated as one of the most unfriendly campuses for gays and lesbians, a list we have escaped in recent years. We discussed how wrong they were, and how we don’t see discrimination on our campus. SMU has LGBT professors. The campus has a non-discrimination policy. I mean come on, we have an incredible arts school – Meadows School of the Arts – so of course we accept gay people.
I remember thinking ever so quietly, even in my head I had to whisper. In the past four years, I have never seen a gay or lesbian couple holding hands on this campus.
It would be impossible to count the infinite number of heterosexual couples I had seen holding hands, or laying on a blanket in front of Dallas Hall, or stealing a kiss in the cafeteria line at Umphrey Lee, or arm in arm at a basketball game, but never a gay couple.
So perhaps during my time at SMU we were ignorant enough to believe that no open protests against the LGBT community, or the lack of graffiti that reads “no gays welcome here” was enough to prove that our campus was inclusive. Today, however, we are forced to acknowledge that the SMU student body, in general, may be hostile towards the gay community.
The issue of a seat for an LGBT representative on Student Senate is not a new issue either. It was controversial during my time at SMU as well. In fact, former Student Senate representative, Alex Ehmke, has now publicly acknowledged his regret regarding the LGBT seat.
“Two years and 2,000 miles away from SMU, my past still catches up with me and reminds me I failed. I spent my first two years in Student Senate espousing clever arguments for why interest seats were ridiculous, and my second two nominally supporting them while actually doing nothing. I received an “M” Award for my contributions, but after four years in senate, I failed to address the most important issue that existed on campus. And that’s because I was wrong about the LGBT seat.”
As Alex indicates, in retrospect, LGBT inclusiveness may have been the biggest (hidden) issue during our time at SMU.
This year, Yik Yak – a new social media app – has allowed many, less tasteful, SMU students to remain anonymous while voicing their bigotry.
In an article released in the most recent edition of The Voice, the newspaper even questioned if SMU students were “getting away with hate speech?” The article identifies some of the insensitive comments posted on Yik Yak:
“I hate the term homophobic – it means a fear of gay people.. I don’t fear them at all, I just don’t like them”
“Did y’all not know what kind of school SMU was? If you want big LGBT support then go to a school that is known for that. And if you get offended at this app then just delete it you liberal PC pricks!”
“Vote no for LGBT senate seat.”
“It’s a sexual deviation. They can do what they want to each other but don’t shove it down everyone’s throat. Vote no”
“Homosexual isn’t a race its a fucked up way of life,” one student posted on Yik Yak. “Yeah, I’m homophobic. So what?” another student fired off. And there were more. “Fuck fags” also was among the numerous posts.”
Unfortunately, the fight for an LGBT special interest seat on SMU’s student senate will continue as the vote has failed to gain a two thirds majority for a second time.
Perhaps, as a community, and as a student body, we need to embrace the reality that maybe SMU belongs on that “unfriendly” list. In the face of this controversy, particularly the hateful words spewed behind a computer screen or cellphone keypad, we must recognize that we can no longer whisper.
This fight deserves a voice.
The LGBT community deserves a voice.
I deserve a voice.