On Wednesday, the Texas A&M University Student Senate voted 35-28 to pass the “Religious Funding Exemption Bill,” which allows students to opt-out of paying the portion of their student fees that goes towards the campus “GLBT center” – about $2 – if they have religious objections. However, this kind of bill is bad for the university, as it can potentially deprive LGBTQ students of services that help create a safer and more inclusive learning environment.
Proponents of the bill assert that A&M students already could stop paying a part of their tuition if they had a religious exemption to it; however, it is not clear whether or not this is true. And if it is, the bill unnecessarily isolates a section of the student body and ostracizes them from the general whole by explicitly asserting that they do not want to help their fellow students if they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. And, as opponents of the bill have noticed, anyone can find a moral or religious reason to oppose many other aspects of university life, yet specific bills do not target those areas. Moreover, this specific bill isolates not just specific services, but specific students in the community.
Openly gay student Andrew Lupo attacked the bill, saying, "The Religious Funding Exemption bill is a facade to deprive GLBT students of resources to create a safe environment … I see so many of you, you're young — 18 and 19 years old — and there is a great future for you. Is this how you want to begin your career — by attacking your own Aggies, your own community?"
Texas A&M also topped other Texas schools in the 2012 Princeton Review list of “LGBT-unfriendly” schools. Some people might say that if the school is so LGBT-unfriendly, why would an LGBTQ student attend? They can go somewhere else, right? Well, if people have a problem with an LGBTQ center at the university, maybe they can go somewhere else, right? There is always a two-way street.
By saying that students don’t have to pay $2, a very small amount of their tuition, to help their fellow LGBTQ students, they are saying that some students are less deserving of a proper University environment than others. Hiding behind a seemingly small amount of tuition is a big message, one that destroys Texas A&M’s supposed “commitment to diversity.” Doing this excludes some students and isolates them from the general student body, something unacceptable at any university.
When you go to the Texas A&M website, it often speaks of the “sense of community” students feel with each other. It speaks of a diversity and richness in the student body that creates a bond among them. It’s about time the university started living up to this image.