A bill passed in the Texas A&M student senate died Friday after the university faced public criticism.
Texas A&M student body president John Claybrook vetoed the "Religious Funding Exemption Bill,” which would have allowed students to opt-out of funding the campus’ Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center.
In an open letter regarding his decision, Claybrook explained, “the sentiment towards the bill has not changed and has caused great harm to our reputation as a student body and to the students feeling disenfranchised by this bill.”
“The damage must stop today,” he said. “Now, more than ever, is the time to show great resolve and come together, treating each other like the family that we are.”
After three hours of testimony and debate, the student senate voted 35-28 to pass the bill Wednesday. The decision intended to give students the option to divert money for the GLBT Center in their tuition fees.
In the 2013 spring semester, Texas A&M students paid between $966 and $1,326 for the required university advancement fee, depending on class hours taken. The money goes to the Student Life department where it is spread out amongst myriad programs, including Greek Life, Student Government Association and Student Media. The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center received about $1.85 per student from this fee, according to a university official at the Division of Student Affairs.
In a phone interview Friday, Claybrook said he never wanted to sign a bill that disenfranchised a specific population of the student body.
“Whether that was the intention of the final wording of the bill or not, that’s how it was viewed and perceived. Students were very, very hurt by this bill and that’s something I never want student government to be doing," he said.
The GLBT Resource Center serves approximately 1,200 Aggies and “educates all campus and community constituencies on GLBT issues through programming about sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, advocacy, leadership, and visibility,” according to its website.
Protesters quickly took to Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets lambasting the measure.
The comments were heated on Reddit. A user claiming to be a former A&M student, using the name tommiivey04 wrote, “Y’all need to grow up. The real world is no longer going to tolerate such hate. Call it what you want, but you are just being prejudice.”
On Twitter, responses carried the same sting in fewer characters. “The Texas A&M SGA Senate gets a big FAIL. How ignorant can you get?” Jonathan Lee tweeted.
It’s not the first time Texas A&M has been called anti-gay. For 2013, the university ranked as the 7th least LGBT-friendly campus in the U.S, according to the Princeton Review. Ahead of Baylor University and the University of Dallas, which ranked 10th and 15th respectively for LGBT-unfriendliness.
Claybrook says he hopes the veto changes that perception.
"The actions of a few don’t constitute the feelings of thousands of students here," Claybrook said. "It’s very important to be reminded that this is a welcoming community, that this is a welcoming environment.”