Eagle Editorial Board
Should white students at Texas A&M be allowed to opt out of paying fees that go to fund black student groups on campus?
Should Muslims be permitted to withhold that portion of that student fee that goes to Christian organizations?
Should male Aggies be allowed to skip paying for women's student groups?
Ridiculous you might say, but such nonsense is the focus of a proposed A&M Student Senate bill that would allow students to opt out of paying that portion of the student fee that funds the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center on campus. The center is available to all students, whether they are gay or coping with a gay roommate or friend. It offers non-judgmental information and support in a friendly, accepting manner.
The GLBT Center sponsors such things as Coming Out Week and GLBT Awareness Week, but it also promotes AIDS Awareness Week.
By now, surely everyone understands that AIDS is not a gay disease, but rather a human disease. It doesn't discriminate between straight or gay, young or old, male nor female, black or white.
The reality is that with some 50,000 Aggies in school, likely thousands of them are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Perhaps many remain in the closet, afraid to reveal their identity for fear of discrimination or abuse. Even those who are "out" need the support and assistance the center can provide.
We understand that some people for religious or other reasons say they don't approve of homosexuality and homosexuals. Fine, their approval is not needed, although acceptance, compassion and understanding would be nice. We suspect that many of those opposed to gays actually know some without realizing it.
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman was adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage until two weeks ago -- when his college son told him he is gay. The senator loves his son and came to realize that lifelong happiness is not a condition shared just by heterosexuals.
That is a common reaction when "straights" learn someone they know well and care about is "gay."
But the issue before the Student Senate is whether students can withhold a portion of their fee that funds a group they oppose.
The answer clearly should be no.
College should be a place where students are exposed to different ideas, different beliefs, different cultures, different backgrounds. When they leave college, they will live and work in a society rich with people of all types. The barriers that are destroyed in college will help them in later years in their work, friendships and family dynamic.
The GLBT Resource Center receives $86,500 in student fees each year and another $13,500 from the university to pay for a graduate assistant. If the student fee portion is cut significantly, the center would be in danger of closing, hurting thousands of Aggies.
America is changing, and Texas A&M must change along with it.
A&M has a well-earned reputation as a welcoming place, although it hasn't always been that way. Women, black, Hispanic, non-Christian and other Aggies suffered greatly in decades past.
Allowing students to opt-out of the fee that funds the GLBT Resource Center would be returning A&M to those sad and lonely days.
Aggies are better than that.