Baylor University’s student body president vetoed a resolution that would have removed the phrase “homosexual acts” from the university’s sexual misconduct policy.
Student Body President Wesley Hodges told the Student Senate Thursday that the university’s board of regents likely would not have granted final approval for the change to the policy, especially because the full student body had not had a chance to weigh in on the topic.
The senate did not achieve a two-thirds majority to override the veto during a vote in a closed session.
The student senate last week passed the Sexual Misconduct Policy Non-Discrimination Act to drop “homosexual acts” from the policy and instead substitute the phrase “nonmarital consensual deviate sexual intercourse.”
“I truly believe that Baylor treats its students with grace, love and truth, and in doing that seeks to accept all students, but does not affirm all student behaviors,” Hodges said. “Simply because the university disagrees with your actions or lifestyle, does not imply that it is seeking to attack you.”
Trenton Garza, the senate member who sponsored the resolution, argued that the current policy is unfair because it does not also ban all sexual acts between heterosexual students.
Other violations listed in the policy include fornication and sexual abuse, harassment and assault. Garza argued that the current language still allows heterosexual couples to engage in intercourse typically associated with gay couples, while targeting homosexuals for the same sexual behavior.
But he also said the language adds to negative feelings that gay students on campus may experience about their sexuality.
“Something that I feel, as a Christian, is that all too often Christianity is being known for what it is against, rather than what it is for,” Garza said after the meeting. “In light of that, I wanted to show that we are for loving people . . . as small as a wording change really can be, the symbolism can spark something much greater.”
Garza said he also was surprised by Hodges’ veto, which he had not been made aware of until after it was placed on the senate’s agenda.
During open debate before the attempt to override the veto, several students cited the widespread national media attention on the proposed change as a deterrent to pushing the policy through.
Several student senators said the issue jeopardized Baylor’s reputation as a Christian university or created the impression that the university was intolerant of gay students.
“Based on the flood of media perspectives and articles over this past week that say as much, this new language, unlike the current language of the policy, perpetuates the idea that Baylor University hates and ostracizes homosexuals, when that’s just straight-forwardly false,” senator Connor Mighell said.
“Our policy, in fact, directly calls for constructive forgiveness and compassion.”
Senator Chase Hardy said many students he talked to on campus didn’t support the bill because of confusion about the phrase “deviate sexual intercourse.” He also expressed doubt that gay students have faced mistreatment on campus, a point countered by fellow senator Grant Senter.
“I find it kind of hilarious that a straight male is going to say, ‘What persecution is going on here?’ ” Senter said to laughter in the meeting. “You don’t walk in their shoes, you have different friends who aren’t in their circles.”
Thursday’s meeting was also attended by about 10 members of student group Sexual Identity Forum, which includes 26 active members who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or are supporters. Adam Short, president of the group, said while he was pleased with the senate’s initial support of the bill, he is disappointed that the changes will not be implemented.
He called the current policy discriminatory because it specifically calls out a subset of the student population instead of simply outlawing sexual activity for all students regardless of sexual orientation.
In addition, Baylor’s administration refuses to recognize his group as an official student organization because of its LGBTQ focus. The “Q” stands for people who are “questioning” their sexual orientations.
“I do know of a few rare cases of outward oppression, issues of bullying and things of that nature,” Short said. “Baylor faculty and staff, however, have been very welcoming and friendly to students who identify as LGBTQ, so it’s such a shame to see this get vetoed.”
Garza, a senior, said he likely would not pursue a change to the sexual misconduct policy again during the rest of his term.
But he hopes that it continues to foster healthy discussion on campus and results in more welcoming acceptance of gay students.
“It’s now under the microscope. It’s now something that has been discussed here at Baylor and something that can continue going on with discussions even if that’s outside of the senate,” Garza said. “While we really say these really pleasant things in our codes and our statements, I really hope that our policies follow suit and that they can walk in step.”