A&M student who lost election says he’s fighting out of principle

Robert McIntosh, who won election as Texas A&M University’s student body president only to be stripped of victory for a campaign finance violation, says he’s fighting that result out of principle.

“The reason I ran for student body president, and won, is the same reason I’m fighting the theft of this election now: to serve and defend the interests and the rights of all Aggies,” McIntosh said in a prepared statement. “That doesn’t just mean the ones who voted for me — it also means the ones who didn’t.”

Last week, McIntosh’s lawyers filed papers in state district court in Brazos County seeking authorization to question two students and one A&M staff member in connection with the election. A student-run judicial court disqualified McIntosh for failing to report a campaign expense — specifically, some glow sticks used in a video.

“The student decision makers who saw fit to ignore and overturn the will of the student body need to answer for their decisions,” said McIntosh, a senior majoring in university studies. “The administration that condoned and counseled them must do the same. And the university must take steps to ensure this never happens again — that there is accountability and fairness in this and all future Aggie elections.”

As a result of McIntosh’s disqualification, Bobby Brooks, a junior economics major, was declared the winner. He is the first openly gay president of A&M’s student body.

U.S. Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a graduate of A&M, has suggested that a diversity agenda was behind the disqualification, a charge that the university has denied.

Texas A&M’s first openly gay student president responds to Rick Perry

A gay student at Texas A&M University has taken the high road in responding to former Gov. Rick Perry’s criticism of his election as student body president. The student, Bobby Brooks, didn’t even mention the criticism in a diplomatically worded letter to Perry that has been posted on the Battalion, A&M’s student newspaper.

Former Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Texas Public Policy Foundation on Wednesday February 24, 2016, after the state’s top criminal court threw out the remaining charge against him. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Perry, now U.S. energy secretary, suggested in a Houston Chronicle column last week that a “quest for diversity” was behind a decision to disqualify Brooks’ opponent, Robert McIntosh, who received the most votes. A student-run judicial court disqualified McIntosh for failing to report a campaign expense — specifically, glow sticks of the type seen at concerts and raves.

In his letter, Brooks focused instead on Perry’s declaration in the column that he was initially proud of students for electing an openly gay man, calling it “a testament to the Aggie character.”

“I am indeed proud to be an openly gay student,” Brooks wrote, “and I share your pride that my fellow students see my sexual orientation as a simple matter of fact – not something that compromises my qualifications.”

Brooks invited Perry “to come home to Texas and meet with my team and me as we take office later this month to discuss how we can work together to achieve our common vision. We have many students on this campus from all walks of life, whose perspectives I would care to share with you. In the case that you are unable to do so in the coming weeks, I would be happy to travel to Washington DC at a time convenient for us to speak about the important issues you raised in your op-ed.”

A&M officials have denied that a diversity agenda thwarted McIntosh’s victory, asserting that students simply followed the rules in disqualifying him. McIntosh has asked a state district court in Brazos County for permission to question two students and one staff member in preparation for a possible lawsuit.




UT Faculty Council backs students in country illegally

When President Donald Trump issued his first executive order banning certain foreign travelers, the Faculty Council at the University of Texas responded with a resolution of opposition. On Monday, the council adopted a resolution in support of students who are in the country illegally, including those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Established by former President Barack Obama, the DACA program gives young people temporary protection from deportation as well as permission to work.

“There is a continued effort among faculty to show strong support for our students who are experiencing great uncertainty and anxiety as a result of the current political climate,” said Jody L. Jensen, a professor of kinesiology and health education who chairs the Faculty Council. “This resolution doesn’t change any existing policy. It is an affirmation that our undocumented and DACA students are entitled to the same protections as all of our students.”

Here’s the full text of Monday’s resolution:

Resolution in Support of Undocumented and DACA Students

The University of Texas at Austin guarantees all rights afforded to its students under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Therefore, be it resolved, that undocumented and DACA students, as members of our University community, are included in this protection under FERPA.


UT defends race-conscious admissions as new legal threat looms

The University of Texas has responded to the prospect of a new legal assault on its use of affirmative action in admissions by defending the legality and purpose of its program.

As the Statesman reported Thursday, the same UT alumnus who took a lawsuit against UT to the U.S. Supreme Court twice, ultimately losing, is recruiting students who were denied admission to the Austin flagship.

Edward Blum, a former stockbroker and onetime candidate for Congress, is president of Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit group that on Thursday began inviting students who were rejected by UT to provide grades, test scores and a list of outside activities to help build a new legal case.

I asked UT for a comment and received this emailed statement by Maurie McInnis, the executive vice president and provost:

“Last June, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of The University of Texas at Austin’s admissions policy in the case of Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin, affirming the university’s use of race and ethnicity as one factor in our holistic admissions process. The policy, which remains in effect, has not changed since the ruling. Our pursuit of excellence is grounded in the university’s public mission to provide the highest quality education for every student. Diversity is essential to carry out that mission. The educational benefits of diversity for all students enhance The University of Texas at Austin, the higher education community, and the nation.”

Huston-Tillotson CEO on White House visit: ‘We need to stay engaged’

colette-pierce-burnetteColette Pierce Burnette, the president and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University, knows full well that the vast majority of black voters went with Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. That there is a photo-op aspect to any appearance in the Oval Office. That historically black colleges and universities have had a tough time getting adequate federal funding for years.

“I went in encouraged that we were having a conversation,” she said of the White House visit Monday by representatives of dozens of HBCUs. “That was the driver for me — to be part of a conversation on how schools that have been traditionally underfunded could benefit from additional investment. We need to stay engaged in the political process.”

Pierce Burnette and other HBCU leaders met with senior administration officials and were ushered into the Oval Office for a brief meeting with the president.

“It was an interesting experience — interesting in that we didn’t anticipate going into the Oval Office,” she said in an interview with the American-Statesman on Wednesday. “We were invited in at the last moment. Just as an American to be in the Oval Office is an honor. I had been there before as a tourist once upon a time.”

Trump signed an executive order Tuesday signalling his commitment to HBCUs and transferring the government’s initiative on such schools from the Education Department to the executive office of the White House. Pierce Burnette told the Statesman that she took that as a good sign, a transfer from the second tier up to the first tier.

But she acknowledged that the true measure of Trump’s commitment would come with concrete plans for increased federal funding for HBCUs, including investments in capital infrastructure and expanded financial aid for all low-income students eligible for Pell grants. The same goes for Congress, she said. The college presidents lobbied congressional leaders on Tuesday for more funding, with Thurgood Marshall College Fund President and CEO Johnny Taylor Jr. asserting that $25 billion is needed to make up for years of underfunding.

Asked if she was disappointed that no firm financial commitments emerged from the Washington visit, Pierce Burnette said: “I’m not disappointed. I realize there’s heavy lifting. I’m used to heavy lifting.”

She was equally diplomatic regarding the college leaders’ interactions with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who called the historically black schools “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” Critics responded that the schools were established at a time when blacks could not attend white schools, not to give blacks more options of where to enroll.

“The more we have conversations about what our objectives are, the more we will educate each other,” the Huston-Tillotson president said. “So the more that the secretary of education learns about the mission and vision of HBCUs the more informed she becomes about the necessity of investing in minority-serving institutions that serve segments of the population that have been traditionally been underserved.”