Politics Senate publishes statement supporting LGBT community after recent hate speech letter By Emily St. Amour Posted on October 15, 2015 7 min read 0 0 436 File photo by Austin Linfante Student Senate debated whether to pass a resolution in disapproval of a letter to the editor published in The Post on Monday by a member of a hate group targeting members of the LGBT community. Student Senate President Gabby Bacha said Senate chose against publishing a letter at first because it has not yet become an “on-campus issue,” since the letter was written by an individual from out-of-state. Bacha then said after receiving comments from a fellow student who felt concern over their safety after reading the opinion, she felt it was necessary to make a statement opposing the letter. “If it becomes an unsafe community, [Student Senate] is going to be an advocate for the students,” Bacha said. “We can give them institutional support.” In Bacha’s statement, which was published online by The Post, she welcomed student members of the LGBT community to reach out to Senate. Bacha stated that Student Senate “not only support[s] our LGBT community, but we condemn hate speech of all types. We will not tolerate it. As allies, we open our doors to anyone in the LGBT community to speak to us about campus issues involving hate speech, or other issues affecting this community.” The Post published an editorial apologizing for the opinion, which was found to have been written by a member of a group called Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (HOME). The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified HOME as a hate group. “Wayne Lela, the author of the letter, is entitled to his opinion,” The Post’s editorial said. “He’s entitled to voice that opinion publicly — to email it to us, say it in a public settings or put it on a public Facebook page. However, he isn’t guaranteed the right to publicize that opinion — which could be categorized as hate speech — within The Post’s pages.” In addition, Senate passed three resolutions to appoint new senators. Logan Stark was appointed as the Environmental Affairs Commissioner, Brittany Moore was appointed as a Graduate Senator and Emily Hill and Cassidy Paul were both appointed to serve as delegates for the Women’s Affairs Commission. Prior to these resolutions being made, three guest speakers made their presentations for approximately 69 people in attendance at the Senate meeting. Chief Information Officer for OU Craig Bantz later addressed the assembly and encouraged students to reach out to him through email about internet issues. Bantz outlined changes that have already occurred as well as things he would like to see happen to improve students’ online access. OU now provides at least two times the bandwidth than it did at this time last year, meaning that streaming services like Netflix are operable, according to Bantz. He also said that he aims to provide OU wifi users with “as much bandwidth as people can consume.” Bantz hopes to clean up the 500,000 active OU email accounts and improve the website, which he said “just sucks, kind of.” The plan for the OU website, which would take half a year and $500,000 to complete, would convert the site to being open sourced. Bantz also spoke in favor of technology training for OU faculty so that tools such as Blackboard could be utilized more effectively. “It’s not always the tool that’s the problem,” Bantz said. “[OU doesn’t] always have the support structure to help the faculty figure out how to use these tools.” Additionally, Ji-Yeung Jang, Associate Director of Strategy, Relations and Communications for Global Affairs and International Studies at OU, reached out to Student Senate members for advice on improving connections between international and domestic students. Some of the ideas discussed were promoting pre-existing programs through learning communities and creating a “Bobcat Buddy” system to allow international students a chance to learn about the campus. Patrick McGee, managing attorney at the Center for Student Legal Services, spoke about his background and decision to run for Athens City Council. McGee gave Senate a brief overview of his campaign promises, which included treating OU students as citizens, making himself accessible, holding the city and police accountable to students and come to a compromise with students and the city concerning the continuation of fest season. McGee, a self-proclaimed moderate, explained that he thinks that fest season can be controlled without needing to discontinue the whole event.