Aggie Conservatism

The Texas A&M University Student Senate made some unfortunate news late last night:

After three hours of emotional debate, the Texas A&M Student Senate voted 35-28 Wednesday night to approve an anti-gay measure that would allow students to opt out of funding the campus GLBT Resource Center if they have religious objections.

Less than 24 hours before the vote, the name of the bill was changed from the “GLBT Funding Opt Out Bill” to the “The Religious Funding Exemption Bill,” and specific references to the GLBT Resource Center were removed. However, opponents of the bill who packed a Student Senate meeting before the vote Wednesday said the name change did not alter the bill’s discriminatory, anti-gay intent.

This will be bruited about as evidence that support for gay rights isn’t as universal among young people as is usually assumed (or perhaps even that the worm is turning with the latest batch of kids, as RCP’s Sean Trende suggested in his latest argument against “demographic destiny.”)

But we need to remember Texas A&M is a special place, particularly among large public universities. In a 2009 survey by the Princeton Review, A&M ranked eighth among the “10 most socially conservative colleges.” And none of the others (Brigham Young, Grove City, the University of Dallas, Notre Dame, Wheaton, Furman, and the Air Force, Army and Merchant Marine military academies) is a state university. It’s got a strong military tradition; it’s in the conservative evangelical hotbed of East Texas; and it’s got (as anyone who’s known an Aggie can tell you) a extraordinarily strong sense of having a distinct cultural identity.

More specifically, in 2011 Princeton Review offered a list of the Most LGBT-Unfriendly Colleges, and A&M ranked 10th (with much of the same company, though the three service academies on the “socially conservative” list dropped off, which is a good thing).

So last night’s action shouldn’t surprise anybody. Indeed, you could make the argument that the internal unhappiness over the measure was more surprising than the result, and could lead to its failure:

A&M Student Body President John Claybrook says he has not decided whether to veto the measure. The closer-than-expected margin of passage means the Senate may not have the votes to override a veto by Claybrook.

Now that would be news.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.