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Editorial: Senate bill rebranding dilutes controversy, but doesn't atone

Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 17:04

Wednesday is a big day for Student Senate — and not only because an isolated minority group deserves an apology.

The Senate Finance Committee approved The GLBT Funding Opt Out Bill, which was renamed “The Religious Funding Exemption Bill” after Tuesday amendments.

Last minute changes sought to correct the bill by broadening the language after a swarm of campus and statewide reaction deemed it discriminatory. The bill still comes up short of its attempt to climb a mountain of legal precedent and University policy.

The Battalion commends senator’s stated goals of taking action to better represent and connect with the student body. But good intentions can’t be the fallback for a bill that had little to no understanding of relevant legal precedent, which in turn singled out a resource center that is a support system for a minority student group.

The bill originally advocated that a minute part of student monies be withheld from one group, disregarding the University’s constitutional obligation to be viewpoint neutral in its funding system.

The altered bill dropped “GLBT” from its title and “GLBT Resource Center” from the bill entirely. The foundational change was an enactment stating that Senate shall support allowing students to opt out of paying tuition and fee monies to fund “various services” to which they object for “religious and moral purposes.”

Part of the problem is you can make an argument to morally oppose just about any service.

“I morally oppose war, so I disapprove of my student fees funding a veteran center” or “I morally oppose government, so I disapprove of my student fees funding SGA.”

Moral objections can be abused to creatively abstain from using student fees for virtually anything.

This partial attempt to redirect a bill has less value to conversations about public funding structures or First Amendment rights than the pocket change it wants to enable students to withhold from campus organizations.

The amendments approved Tuesday only attempt to make the bill “not wrong” rather than making it worth a signature from the student body president or a moment of the A&M administration’s time.

For the sake of pursuing quality legislation, the bill shouldn’t have been approved for a vote in Committee because it does not possess the fundamentals needed to contribute to a discussion in which it currently doesn’t belong. “Ready, shoot, aim” can’t be the mentality of bill writing if Senate wants to be a legitimate influence on campus issues.

Wednesday is an opportunity for Senate to start acting out the goals it sets for itself. It’s an opportunity to communicate the need to better research and prepare before writing a bill. Learn from applicable sources — such as from Student Business Services or the Student Service Fee Advisory Board — before writing a bill that obliviously looks to alter a University’s established funding structure that serves 50,000 students.


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