The notion, advanced by former Gov. Rick Perry, that a diversity agenda was somehow behind the election of the first openly gay student body president at Texas A&M University is “just not accurate,” a university spokeswoman said Thursday.
Perry, now the U.S. energy secretary, suggested in a Houston Chronicle op-ed column Wednesday that the election of Bobby Brooks was tainted. A student judicial court awarded victory to Brooks, a junior economics major, after disqualifying the top vote-getter, Robert McIntosh, for failure to report a campaign expense — specifically, glow sticks like those used at concerts and raves. McIntosh was cleared of a charge of voter intimidation.
Perry, an A&M graduate, wrote that he was initially proud of students for electing an openly gay man, calling it “a testament to the Aggie character.” But after learning of the circumstances, Perry wrote, he concluded that the outcome was at best “a mockery of due process and transparency” and at worst an election “stolen outright.”
McIntosh’s disqualification was overly harsh, Perry said, suggesting that the university wouldn’t have allowed the election to be overturned if the top vote-getter had been an openly gay student accused of a similar infraction.
“Brooks’ presidency is being treated as a victory for ‘diversity,’” Perry wrote. “It is difficult to escape the perception that this quest for ‘diversity’ is the real reason the election outcome was overturned. Does the principle of ‘diversity’ override and supersede all other values of our Aggie Honor Code?”
A&M spokeswoman Amy B. Smith told the American-Statesman: “To say that there was some greater agenda here — it’s just not accurate. I’m absolutely certain that if the roles were reversed and the candidate who was minority or underrepresented on campus violated rules, no matter how large or small, the same outcome would be the case.”
McIntosh said he was humbled to have Perry’s support. “He made a compelling case which I fully support and continue to fight for,” McIntosh told the Battalion, A&M’s student newspaper. “Our campaign team won the election and was subsequently disqualified unfairly. Diversity, at its heart, is equal treatment of all, and we hope this situation is resolved in a way that ensures a fair and more transparent process now and in future elections.”
Brooks and student leaders of the judicial court and the election have declined to comment, the Battalion reported.
The disqualification stemmed from a video used in McIntosh’s campaign that included glow sticks not reported on a campaign finance report. Smith said there is no indication that the student judicial court’s decision will be changed.
“It was a violation that to some may not seem as significant as some other things, but to my knowledge they followed the process and followed the rules and determined unanimously with the student judicial court that Bobby Brooks is the winner,” Smith said.
Perry, who was a yell leader at A&M but not a particularly devoted student, receiving a “D” in his meats class, suggested in his op-ed that the election events warrant oversight. “Incredibly, it appears that the Board of Regents was never informed,” he wrote.
A&M System spokesman Laylan Copelin declined to comment on that remark.