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UCCS students elect gay president on heels of discrimination controversy

By: DEBBIE KELLEY
April 27, 2009
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On the heels of a controversy over student-fee funding for a gay group at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, two gay students have been elected president and vice president for the next school year.

"It's pretty amazing for this campus and certainly historical," said Crystal Duckhorn, co-chair of Spectrum, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender club on campus.

Polls closed Saturday for the election of student leaders for the term that begins in August. Daniel Garcia and James Burge - both openly gay - will be president and vice president, Duckhorn said Monday. They beat out three other teams of candidates, including the incumbent team of president David Williams and vice president Andy Adair, both of whom were impeached by the student body government in recent weeks.

The student government senate though, has not yet voted to remove them from office.

Their term ends June 1.

Williams came under fire shortly after school started in the fall for refusing to sign off on a request from Spectrum for $2,100 in student activity fees to fund a "coming out day" observance. Williams cited his beliefs and convictions as the reason. But because Williams did not veto the proposal, the funding request automatically passed after five school days, as per the student constitution, and the group received the money for its event.

Spectrum claimed Williams acted discriminatorily, and the student government senate agreed.

Williams appealed to the chancellor, who agreed with the student government's decision and also said he was not objective in making his decision - a requirement of student leaders voting on the allocation of activity fees.

"I believe in protecting First Amendment rights and viewpoint rights," Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said earlier this month. "However, when it comes to distribution of mandatorily collected student fees, there are two Supreme Court cases we have to follow."

The issue caused concern among gays on campus, who said they felt unsafe and were the target of verbal and physical harassment, which resulted in the school's first diversity and safety rally, held in December.

After two failed impeachment attempts and a recall election that the chancellor canceled due to improper processes, the student body house earlier voted this month to impeach Williams. His vice president was impeached in March.

Shockley-Zalabak has asked that the student constitution be revised to more clearly be in compliance with U.S. Supreme Court rulings on student activity fees.

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Call Kelley at 636-0235

 

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