The Student Senate at Texas A&M University is officially supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community on campus for the first time. Two resolutions were signed during the 71st Session on Nov. 14.
“Quickly into my time as a senator, I realized that the Student Senate had yet to pass any significant legislation in support of LGBT students,” said Zach Huebschman, an off-campus senator in the Student Government Association and senior political science major who authored the resolutions. “The Aggie family is stronger when we support all of that family, and I’m proud that the Senate has finally taken a step to support members of the Aggie family who have been isolated by that same body in the past.”
The first resolution asserts the Senate’s support of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) Resource Center and the LGBT community on the campus of Texas A&M. Current and former students and university administrators are lauded for their various contributions to helping build a welcoming environment for LGBT Aggies.
“The first resolution is a powerful and profound moment for the Student Senate that bridges the gap between its past and its present realities, because the last time a bill came forward from the Student Senate, they sought to defund the center,” said Chad Mandala, program coordinator for the GLBT Resource Center at Texas A&M. “So to see the Student Senate move from a place of defunding to active support, acknowledgement and endorsement represents a huge shift and sends a really powerful message that it is embracing every part of the Aggie family.”
Contributions named in the resolution include establishment of the first LGBT support group by former students, Michael Minton, Michael Garrett and Sherri Skinner; veto by former Student Body President John Claybrook of a Senate bill that would have allowed students to opt out of supporting the GLBT Resource Center with their student fees; and sponsorship of Aggies in the Houston Pride Parade by university administrators for the first time in 2017, among others.
“Part of my motivation to join the Senate in the first place was the past legislation that nearly defunded the GLBT Resource Center,” Huebschman said. “Many people have cited it as the reason that they doubt their decision to attend Texas A&M or recommend the school to other perspective LGBT students.”
The second resolution affirms support of Texas A&M administrators and faculty who are working to create a university-wide, gender-inclusive bathroom policy and urges them to continue their efforts.
“Ensuring we have all-gender restrooms is a critical matter for the Student Senate in its commitment to ensure every student at Texas A&M has an equitable experience and access to campus,” Mandala said.
Motivation for the second resolution stems from the need for restrooms where transgender students feel safe, Huebschman said. Specifically, the Senate recommends that all university departments desiring a gender-inclusive bathroom receive the support necessary from the university to make it possible in their respective buildings.
“Many LGBT students still face fear of attending class, walking around the university or immersing themselves in the Aggie family,” Huebschman said. “I’m proud of the Senate decision, and I know that many Aggies in the future will see the work of this Senate and feel a little more welcomed into the Aggie family.”