The alma mater of former Texas governor and current Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has elected its first openly gay student body president, but Perry himself thinks the election was stolen as a diversity move.
In an opinion piece published in the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday, Perry alleged that the administration at Texas A&M University unfairly disqualified the top vote-getter, Robert McIntosh, and handed the presidency to Bobby Brooks, who is openly gay. In the piece, Perry wrote he first thought Brooks’s election was a testament to A&M’s character, but felt differently once he learned the grounds on which McIntosh was disqualified, according to the Washington Post.
McIntosh was originally disqualified for allegations of voter intimidation and erroneous campaign expense reporting, Texas Tribune reported, but was later cleared of the first charge. A&M’s judicial court upheld that McIntosh failed to report finances for glow sticks featured in a campaign video.
“At worst, the SGA allowed an election to be stolen outright,” Perry wrote. “…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. Does the principle of ‘diversity’ override and supersede all other values of our Aggie Honor Code?”
Perry also suggested that had Brooks been accused of similar allegations of McIntosh and was the top vote-getter, the A&M administration wouldn’t have allowed him to be disqualified.
“Every Aggie ought to ask themselves: How would they act and feel if the victim was different?” Perry wrote. “What if McIntosh had been a minority student instead of a white male? What if Brooks had been the candidate disqualified? Would the administration and the student body have allowed the first gay student body president to be voided for using charity glow sticks? Would the student body have allowed a black student body president to be disqualified on anonymous charges of voter intimidation?”
Amy Smith, A&M’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, denied the allegations, and told the Tribune that the students run the elections, not the administrators. She also expressed surprise at the energy secretary’s willingness to involve himself in the school’s matters.
“I would say that we respectfully disagree with his assessment…and his understanding of the election rules of student body president elections doesn’t reflect the facts,” Smith said. “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.”
Perry is the first Texas governor to have graduated from Texas A&M, and spent 14 years handling appointments to the school’s Board of Regents. McIntosh is the son of a prominent Republican fundraiser in Dallas who campaigned for President Donald Trump during the 2016 election, which could help explain why Perry decided to get involved in such a localized event.
According to the school’s student newspaper the Battalion, Brooks didn’t make his sexuality a part of his campaign platform and didn’t respond to requests for comment. McIntosh, on the other hand, said he appreciates Perry’s support, and still believes he was wrongly disqualified.
“I did not at all expect his editorial and I’m humbled to have his support,” McIntosh told the Battalion. “Our campaign team won the election and was subsequently disqualified unfairly. Diversity, at it’s heart, is equal treatment of all, and we hope this situation is resolved in a way that ensures a fair and more transparent process now and in future elections.”