Senate rejects controversial speech bill, approves parking bill

By Daniel C. Houston
Staff Writer

The Student Senate shot down a bill Thursday whose sponsors argued statements made at a university-sponsored event were out of line with university policy.

SR 59-06, which failed by a vote of 16-25, highlighted remarks made by third-year law student and self-identified illegal immigrant Jose Magaña at a Sept. 21 “Hispanic Civil Rights Forum” sponsored by the department of multicultural affairs.

Rockwall junior Nick Pokorny opposed the bill and said he thinks questions about the motivations and affiliation of the bill’s author, Wichita Falls senior Daniel Cervera, senior senator and president of Baylor’s chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, influenced some of the senators who voted against it.

“I would say I attribute the reason the bill failed to its original intent,” Pokorny said. “Really, at the beginning of the day … it began as an attack on certain individuals. Daniel did his best effort to rephrase it as much as he could; but, at the end of the day, still having that background to it a lot of us weren’t too pleased with it.”

The original version of the bill as introduced directly criticized the department of multicultural affairs and Dr. Elizabeth Palacios, dean for student development, for sponsoring the event, during which Magaña brought attention to acts of civil disobedience some activists have taken in support of providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Cervera argued such statements from a university-sponsored panelist violate a university policy that “[speakers] who advocate violent rebellion and illegal resistance to the laws of the state and nation or the rules of the University should not be invited.”

Before Thursday’s meeting, Cervera made changes to the bill removing any explicit objects of criticism and adding the suggestion that the university change its policy for speakers if it is unwilling to enforce existing policy in the manner Cervera had originally called for. Cervera also agreed to strike the reference to violent rebellion and illegality during the meeting. Dallas freshman senator Connor Mighell expressed support for Cervera’s bill despite having qualms with it initially because he believed it was an attack on certain individuals.

“At its basic level,” Mighell said, “this bill has nothing to do with the DREAM Act, the Hispanic Civil Rights Forum, or any specific university administrators at all. This bill is doing one thing and one thing only: holding Baylor administration [officials] to standards which they have set out in their own governing documents.”

Cervera categorized assumptions about his motivations as character attacks, and said he thought the issue was worth pursuing regardless of the outcome.

“This bill was sponsored by five students defending basic principles of fairness in the face of a politically correct culture,” Cervera said. “While some senators may have been intimidated by the prospect of challenging an institutional practice, a significant percentage of senators nonetheless saw a problem with selective enforcement of university policy.”

In other business, the Senate passed a resolution calling for the implementation of a zoned parking system under which Baylor would sell parking passes to limited areas in an effort to ensure all students are guaranteed a spot in the various parking facilities.

Pokorny authored the parking proposal and said his bill will help parking director Matt Penney, who has expressed an intention to move forward with a similar program, convince upper-level administration to adopt a zoned system.

“This bill,” Pokorny said, “helps us pass this measure by [providing] Matt Penney with student opinion to go to Dr. [Reagan] Ramsower, vice president for finance and administration, and say, ‘Students are concerned about parking and they’ve thrown out this suggestion at us and I think this is the way we should go moving forward.”