Story by Matthew Muir | Staff Writer, Video by Kennedy Dendy | Broadcast Reporter
Student government passed a bill Thursday intended to encourage inclusion of LGBTQ groups on campus.
The bill labelled SR 66-14, introduced by San Antonio senior senator Paige Hardy, asks Baylor Student Activities to “explore new ways of defining organizations to permit on-campus participation of LGBTQ groups.”
Baylor’s Student Policies and Procedures’ Statement on Human Sexuality denounces “homosexual behavior” as a deviation from the “biblical norm.” As a result, Baylor refuses to allow LGBTQ groups on campus. According to Hardy, a change to the way student organizations are defined could allow LGBTQ groups to operate at Baylor without being officially chartered or endorsed by the university.
LGBTQ rights have been a topic of discussion on campus in recent weeks, partly in response to conservative commentator Matt Walsh’s visit to campus on Tuesday. Hardy said the recent controversy surrounding Walsh gave her the push she needed to address issues she observed at Baylor.
“I think the controversy sparked me to finally write [the bill] and introduce it, but I had seen the problems with Baylor’s treatment of the LGBTQ+ community for a while,” Hardy said. “It was very hard to watch as some of my friends sat and cried at the hate that they have been getting on campus.”
Much of the debate during the hearing focused on the bill’s language. There were no senators who stated objections to the inclusion of LGBTQ groups on campus, but some expressed concern that the language of the bill was convoluted and unlikely to accomplish its goal. Ridley Holmes, a Waco junior and the operations and procedures chair of the senate, said he was concerned because of Baylor’s overarching policies that would make the bill ineffective.
“My concern is that Baylor’s faith statement as it’s written, it precludes Baylor from redefining how they define student organizations. The Student Senate encouraging Baylor to change their student organization qualifications could only be done by us encouraging Baylor to change their faith statement,” Holmes said. “While the bill wanted the first thing that I just said, it didn’t want the second thing, so I saw it as a contradiction of terms.”
Holmes said that despite his problems with the bill’s language, he believes the LGBTQ community is a valuable part of Baylor’s campus.
“I absolutely support LGBTQ+ students and I absolutely believe that they have a place on Baylor campus and contribute to conversations,” Holmes said. “If I voted against the bill it’s because I believe there’s a contradiction in terms, not because I don’t believe that Baylor should support [LGBTQ] students more or that those students don’t deserve more support than they have.”
According to Hardy, the bill is intended to send a message rather than provide a “prescription of what to do.” Hardy said that this, along with the constraints of Baylor’s existing policies, were why she left the bill’s language intentionally vague.
“I think the important thing is the message of the bill and the heart of the bill,” Hardy said. “I purposefully kept it vague because I know I don’t have all the answers. I’m not the director of student activities. I’m not a member of the Board of Regents. I didn’t write the statements of human sexuality and faith statements.”
Hardy said the bill was an attempt to be proactive in supporting the LGBTQ community. She referenced hate crimes committed at Georgetown University in 2009, in which one student was beaten and an anti-gay slur was left on the door of an LGBTQ resource center, as an example of waiting too long to give LGBTQ students protection and representation. Hardy said she wants to avoid incidents like those at Baylor.
“I’ve seen how tragedy is sometimes the only way we change, and I want to change that narrative so that we can be proactive so students don’t have to get hurt for us to open our eyes and see that we need to protect them,” Hardy said.
Senate resolutions only act as suggestions for Baylor’s administration, and it’s up to the administration to decide whether or not to adopt the bill. Though the administration has the final say, Hardy says passing the bill is still representative of progress.
“Maybe it’s unrealistic, but I’m willing to try and give it a shot,” Hardy said. “At the very least it’s starting a conversation that needed to be started a long time ago.”