The feelings of pride that accompanied the election of the first openly gay student body president at Texas A&M University this week quickly morphed in indignation as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is now the U.S. energy secretary, questioned the validity of election results.
In an op-ed published in the Houston Chronicle, Perry said that, by declaring junior Bobby Brooks and not the winner of the popular vote Robert McIntosh president, the university “made a mockery of due process” in the name of diversity. McIntosh, the son of a prominent Republican donor, was disqualified from the race for failing to disclose all campaign expenditures — in particular, money spent on glow sticks for a video — according to Texas A&M. McIntosh had received 750 more votes than Brooks.
Accusations were also made that McIntosh and his campaign team engaged in voter intimidation — a charge that was later dismissed by the student government’s Judicial Court.
“Brooks’ presidency is being treated as a victory for ‘diversity.’ It is difficult to escape the perception that this quest for ‘diversity’ is the real reason the election outcome was overturned,” Perry said, adding that the university gave no consideration to whether or not McIntosh’s punishment — disqualification — fit the crime. “Apparently, glow sticks merit the same punishment as voter intimidation.”
Perry, who is an alumnus of Texas A&M, also questioned whether the outcome of the election would have been the same had McIntosh been a minority student instead of a white man — or if the tables were turned and Brooks was the one who was disqualified.
Surprised Texas A&M officials quickly responded by denying Perry’s accusations. Amy Smith, senior vice president of marketing and communications, explained that student government elections are run by students, not administrators.
“We respectfully disagree with his assessment,” Smith told the Texas Tribune, “and his understanding of the election rules of student body president elections doesn’t reflect the facts.”
The Texas A&M student Judicial Court’s decision on election results was unanimous, she said, and the administration has no plans to intervene. Smith also told CNN that Bobby Brooks “is a respected leader on the campus and … is going to represent people of all different backgrounds.”
Smith and others criticized Perry for not spending his time on more important tasks. “We were surprised to see that the secretary of energy would take the time to weigh in, in detail,” she said.
(photo via Flickr/Gage Skidmore)