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Opinion: The top ten

Joshua Howell: An Aggie tradition of LGBT unfriendliness

Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07

As is well documented, A&M has an iron predilection for football. Therefore, in early August, when it was announced our team was ranked ninth in the country, there was a collected, if geographically dispersed, "whoop"ing. Having gone seven decades without a national championship, it was boldly predicted this season was ours.

It wasn't the only top-ten list A&M made that week. Two days prior The Princeton Review (TPR), a college admissions consultancy, released their go-to compendium for prospective college students: The Best 376 Colleges, 2012 Edition. Within the 864 pages, high school seniors will find universities ordered into a range of 62 categories; from the serious — academics, admissions selectivity, financial aid, etc. — to the mundane. Like alcohol? Try Ohio University at Athens, the nation's primary party school and number one in "Lots of Beer." Have "Reefer Madness?" Travel to Colorado College (and secure a safe ride home). Care for the "Frat and Sorority Scene?" Tour Vanderbilt University.

When it comes to A&M students, too, will notice our ideological uniformity; we're ranked third on TPR's "Most Conservative Students" list. It's a turnoff for liberal applicants, and a plausible negative for the right-leaning high school senior, enamored by the idea of debating college educated liberals. This year marks the first in the past four we did not receive top billing — we have been supplanted by Hillsdale College in Michigan.

But their most important discovery will be this: A&M, the "friendliest college in the nation," has re-entered the top-ten list for LGBT-Unfriendliness.

It seems we have an "iron predilection" for this as well. Last year, in an annual survey numbering some 75 questions, Aggies crossed the following:  "Students treat all persons equally, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression." According to Robert Franek, the publisher of the review, from the "several thousand" responses from A&M, a "consensus" emerged that the school was LGBT-Unfriendly.

It is important to note these voluntary surveys can be prone to bias — those who make the effort to respond often exhibit strong, and sometimes fringe opinions. But bias doesn't  explain why over 75 other categories went unaffected, nor our continued existence on the list.

By our own standard — "if it happens more than once" — that could be a tradition. For 12 of the past 16 years A&M has received national attention as one of the 20 schools deemed LGBT-Unfriendly; six of these years we placed in the top-ten.

Part genuine analysis, part earnest hope, there was an ill-defined sense the 2010-2011 school year would be our last. In both 2005 and 2006 A&M was seventh in LGBT-Unfriendliness — its highest placement since 1999. But A&M's ranking plummeted to 15 in 2007, climbed to 12 in 2008, then fell back to 15 in 2009 and settled at 17 in the summer of 2010. A&M's wintry air, it appeared, was warming.

Yet this year's ranking shows it was not to be. Whereas there was a precipitous drop from 2006 to 2007, we have now experienced the opposite. Still worse: What accounts for these phenomena is difficult to penetrate, making remedy more challenging — the typical answers no longer satisfy.

Consider the school's ranking as a conservative institution. Though the ideology has softened its stance on LGBT issues, the school's politics and Unfriendliness often move in tandem. Between 1997 and 2001, the school went unranked for its conservative values; for four of those years — with the notable exception of 1999 — neither was it LGBT-Unfriendly. The "precipitous drop" of 2006 strongly correlated with the felling of our relative conservatism (from ninth to sixteenth) in the same manner.

Nevertheless, there are too many holes for this to be the primary shaker. While A&M was becoming friendlier from 2008 to 2010, the school was the acme of the scholastic right. Even more perplexing: This recent jump to tenth occurred during a drop in the school's relative political tilt (from first to third).

Something is awash. It's evident that while A&M maintains its rank-and-file conservatism our Unfriendliness will maintain. But our political ideology, loosely defined as "leaning politically right" by TPR, isn't the strong predictor of Unfriendliness we need.

Joshua Howell is a junior computer science major and opinion columnist for The Battalion.


This is the first in a seven part series on homosexuality and A&M. Follow the series on

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