nuclear fallout

The Texas House of Representatives approved a budget provision requiring state colleges and universities, that use state funds to support “a gender and sexuality center” to spend an equal amount to promote “family and traditional values.”

The amendment proposed by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, passed by a margin of 110-24.

“My first question is how one defines ‘family and traditional values’,” Sonia Saldivar-Hull, Professor of English and the Executive Director of the Women’s Studies Institute (WSI) at UTSA, said.

The amendment specifically targets public colleges and universities that have separate gender and sexuality centers on campus.

“I wonder how they are going to hire people to run these centers,” Larissa Mercado-Lopez, programming director for WSI, said. “There may already be restrictions as to who they may hire just based on [university] equal opportunity acts.”

The Inclusion and Community Engagement Center (ICE) is UTSA’s major resource center for minority groups on campus.

“Our center is a little bit different,” Marlon Anderson, director of ICE, said. “Our center is truly a multicultural center so it is not just focused on services specifically fo the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning (LGBTQ) students.”

Anderson also notes that the amendment focuses specifically on state funded centers.

“Our office is purely funded by student service fee funds,” Anderson said. “We believe that we will be exempt from the legislation in its current form because of the fact.”

However, Christian’s amendment targets more than just state-funded gender and sexuality centers.

“State funding and student fees should not fund any university minority or political group whether it be black, white, gay, etc.” John McClellan, Christian’s Chief of Staff, said. “If these groups want support they should get it through privately funded centers and donors.”

The idea for the bill began in conjunction with Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), a statewide student organization at Texas universities.

“We (Christian’s staff) worked directly with the UT Austin chapter of YCT,” McClellan said. “This amendment is just one step in the process towards getting rid of these centers. The amendment is really a chance for universities to decide whether to put their money towards these centers or funding education, which is where these finances should go.”

Individual universities will have full discretion as to how these traditional and family value centers will be run.

“Legislators won’t enforce this amendment. However, if it passes, it will be state law,” McClellan said.

In their 63rd student senate session, Texas A&M has already voted to support the amendment and “advocate for that amendment on behalf of the students of Texas A&M university”.

“I think it’s a good idea,” junior elementary education major Jennifer Oh said. “I think it’s a serious issue and a lot of people take [traditional family values] seriously.”

However, some students feel that the amendment may be repetitive.

“I don’t know why we’re wasting time and money on that,” graduate electrical engineering student Rick Weissbach said. “If people don’t like [gender and sexuality centers] then they should just ignore them.”

“It [traditional and family value centers] could very much be an excluding space for LGBT students,” Lopez said. “I don’t think homosexual students would think there would be anything at these traditional value centers for them to take advantage of in terms of services unless they were very conservative.”

While the Senate has yet to come to a consensus on the new budget, Christian’s camp hopes to see a majority rule in the coming weeks.

“We are very optimistic about the amendment,” McClellan said. “We hope that Texas universities enforce this legislation fairly.”

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