Backhanded budgeting

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After hours of debate, the state House passed its $164.5 billion budget bill Sunday, and massive cuts to higher education funding aside, state representatives are trying to place an additional burden on universities such as UT.

Of the more than 200 amendments the House considered before passing the bill, members passed an amendment Friday that targets higher education institutions that teach “alternative sexual behavior,” as amendment author Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, put it. If the Senate passes the budget bill with the amendment, universities with gender and sexuality centers such as UT would have to spend at least as much in appropriated funds on a family and traditional values center that promotes heterosexual behavior.

It is clear that the state would not provide additional funding to support these new centers, and with the millions of dollars of funding already cut from higher education, this new requirement would undoubtedly place a substantial burden on universities that promote diversity, acceptance and support for students encountering identity and sexuality issues.

Student fees from the University provide the Gender and Sexuality Center with about $180,000 each year, said Ixchel Rosal, the center’s director. Public funds, however, do not directly support UT’s center. As a result, this amendment will probably not affect UT, Rosal said.

However, Jon McClellan, Christian’s chief of staff, disagrees. “We obviously take a broader view of [what can be considered ‘appropriated funds’].” He said the state will have to leave the technical details “to the lawyers” but that the amendment was written with the intention of affecting UT, among other public universities in the state with gender and sexuality centers.

If the amendment achieves what Christian intends, the effect it would have on a university is two-fold: It would significantly impact budget allocation at universities as well as substantially minimize support for the GLBT community and its allies.

As the state reduces financial support for institutions of higher education, universities are struggling to make budget cuts disrupt as few academic areas as possible. If they are required to allocate funding to a new traditional values center, that transfer would mean cuts to funding in other areas. In all likelihood, those cuts may very well start with the gender and sexuality center to inversely reduce the amount necessary to allocate to the new traditional values center.

Despite Christian’s claim that he is not “treading on their rights to that, to teach alternative sexual behavior,” as quoted by The Dallas Morning News, Christian is, with this amendment, attempting to minimize resources and support for the GLBT community.

It is unfortunate that an amendment that considerably burdens universities and students such as this was passed with a 110-24 vote, while several amendments that were proposed to preserve higher education funding, including several that attempted to minimize cuts to the TEXAS Grant program, failed to garner the support needed to pass.