Rick Perry took a break from his job as U.S. Secretary of Energy Wednesday to criticize his alma mater’s election of its first openly gay student body president, suggesting that the victory was “stolen.”
Texas A&M University handed Bobby Brooks, a gay man, the student body presidency in an election last month. However, Brooks didn’t actually get the most votes; that would be Robert McIntosh, who was disqualified for voter intimidation and for failure to report a campaign expense on glow sticks, according to the student newspaper, The Battalion. A student judicial court later cleared McIntosh of the former charge but not the latter, so Brooks kept the presidency.
“Now, Brooks’ presidency is being treated as a victory for ‘diversity,’” Perry wrote in a Wednesday op-ed in the Houston Chronicle. “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?”
When the school’s election commission disqualified McIntosh, they “at best — made a mockery of due process and transparency,” wrote Perry, Texas’ longest-serving governor and the first to graduate from A&M, a public university about 90 miles from Houston with more than 60,000 students. “At worst, [they] allowed an election to be stolen outright.”
Perry went on to speculate that if McIntosh “had been a minority student instead of a white male,” Brooks might not still be president, because the A&M administrators and students — known as “Aggies” — would not have allowed racial or sexual minorities to be treated in this way.
“The outcome would have been different if the victim was different,” Perry wrote. While diversity should be pursued, he said, administrators must explain their decision to A&M students and alumni.
The Houston Chronicle was evidently surprised that Perry took the time to write the op-ed, calling it an “extraordinary submission.” University officials were also caught off guard by the op-ed, the Texas Tribune reported, and said Perry did not reach out to them prior to publication.
“Honestly, we were just surprised to see that the secretary of energy would take the time to weigh in in detail, and we respectfully disagree with his assessment of what happened,” Amy Smith, A&M’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, told the Texas Tribune.
Smith added that students, not administrators, run the student body election, and that the decision to uphold McIntosh’s disqualification was unanimous. “His understanding of the election rules of student body president elections doesn’t reflect the facts,” Smith said of Perry.
Brooks will take over as A&M’s student body president next month.