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Bobby Brooks, a junior at Texas A&M University, was recently elected student body president. Ralph Tyndall—courtesy of Bobby Brooks

Texas A&M's First Gay Student Body President Has a Message for Rick Perry

Mar 28, 2017

Texas A&M's incoming student body president wants to have a word with Rick Perry.

The Energy Secretary recently wrote a detailed column criticizing the student election that made Bobby Brooks president, and Brooks figures that if Perry had time to do that, the Cabinet member might also be able to sit down and discuss higher education.

"I didn’t expect that he would have the time to weigh in on something like a student election," Brooks, 21, told TIME on Tuesday. "However, if he would like to open the door to engage on student issues, I would love to engage him on that."

In a column for the Houston Chronicle last week, Perry denounced the recent election at Texas A&M University, his alma mater, calling it a "mockery of due process and transparency.”

Texas A&M student Robert McIntosh won the election by more than 750 votes, but he was disqualified by the school's election commission over accusations that he neglected to include a donation of glow sticks in his campaign finance report. The mishap handed the victory to Brooks, who became the school's first openly gay student body president. McIntosh, the son of Republican fundraiser Alison McIntosh, has filed a petition to investigate the reasons for his disqualification, according to his lawyers.

But even with the controversy, Brooks said he was surprised the election drew ire from Perry, the former governor of Texas.

"There’s very consistently election-related drama at all universities around this nation," Brooks said. "I’m just very curious as to why Secretary Perry would decide to weigh in for the first time on an election that involved the first openly gay [student body president]."

In his column, Perry said he was initially proud to see an openly gay man elected but later concluded the election was "stolen."

"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," Perry wrote, going on to ask if the outcome would have been the same had McIntosh "been a minority student instead of a white male."

Since Perry's column was published on March 22, Brooks said he has received several harassing emails and phone calls saying he doesn't deserve to be student body president.

"Everything had died down before Secretary Perry released that op-ed," he said. "Once he did, it engaged that hate on a national scale."

Brooks sent Perry a letter last Friday, inviting him to visit Texas A&M for a meeting and offering to travel to Washington, D.C. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 3,400 people had signed the letter through a petition on GLAAD's website.

Initially unsure how to respond to Perry's column, Brooks said he now hopes to discuss issues of diversity in higher education with him.

"It took me a while because I was so taken aback initially that he would spend his time writing an op-ed — and a scathing one at that — about me and others at the university," Brooks said. "It’s clear to me that he has a different perspective than I do on this, so I’d love to meet with him to clear up any misperceptions he may have."

Perry's office did not immediately respond to TIME's request for comment. Brooks, who will take office on April 21, has not yet received a response from the Energy Secretary, but he said he's optimistic.

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