If you have not already heard, yesterday several LGBTQ student organizations (all of which are unofficial–there is no University-sponsored or approved LGBTQ student group on campus) announced that a BYU administrator (not yet identified) removed and destroyed 5,000 booklets that the organizations had prepared to include in new student orientation bags for incoming freshmen. This was despite the student groups’ having a contract for the distribution and having spent $2,000 printing and 350 hours assembling the booklets. While they received a refund, their greater concern is that the pamphlets won’t be available to incoming freshmen. (And, of course, “time” cannot be refunded.)
While the Tribune article linked above provides a good overview, you can read the groups’ statement about the issue here:
And see the pamphlet itself here:
Carrie Jenkins, who other than whoever is writing the Church’s PR about sex abuse has the worst job ever, said the decision was made because the materials came from “an outside group” and the University wants instead to “provide support through the Office of Belonging and our counseling services and not to allow outside entities to imply affiliation with or endorsement from the university.” Well, that’s convenient because, as noted, there are no official BYU groups focused on LGBTQ allyship or support–BYU won’t allow them.
I must admit I can understand why the University didn’t want to put third-party resources in student materials–particularly when those resources included resources for funding to transfer away from BYU. (A cause I wholeheartedly support and have donated to.) Still, I decided to look into what resources or support are being provided to queer students by the Office of Belonging.
The answer is “none.”
This didn’t take long to figure out, because there just isn’t much on the Office’s website at all. In sum total, there is:
- A statement on belonging that basically says everyone should be loving to each other.
- The option to make an appointment with “a belonging advisor.” The office does not have a physical space yet.
- A biography of the Office’s director, who has worked on racial issues (excellent!) but not LGBTQ issues.
- A link to President’s Nelson’s May 2022 devotional, where he spoke about the importance of not letting labels or identities become more important than our identities as a “child of God” and a “child of the covenant”. This was a controversial talk among the queer community.
- A link to a 1975 talk by President Kimball about the University’s mission.
- Most perplexingly, a link to a speech and Q&A by Dallin Oaks and Clark Gilbert that underscores the need to stand up for our religious beliefs regarding “same-sex attraction,” while also stating that we should treat others with love. I literally cannot think of a worse person to put on the Office’s homepage if they’re trying to help queer students feel welcome–except, I suppose, a link to Elder Holland’s musket talk.
Under News & Events, the page lists a welcome activity as well as the University’s findings on race and equity.
That’s it. That’s all there is. So if you are an incoming queer freshman and you’re only resource is that office–good luck?
You might have better luck on individual department pages, many of which list the same (unofficial) resources as the destroyed pamphlets listed (as well as the unofficial organizations who made them). Examples are here, here, and here.
Don’t tell the administration that, though, or those departments might have to remove the pages.
8/27/22 UPDATE: A black Duke volleyball player was repeatedly called racial slurs and threatened during a game on BYU campus. While BYU says it has banned the attendee from future events, he was not removed during the event. Where you at Office of Inclusion and Belonging?!?!?
- Do you think Jenkin’s explanation for why the University removed the pamphlets is truthful? What’s your explanation for that move?
- What do you think of the Office of Belonging’s website? Do you think it will be effective at helping LGBTQ students at BYU? If you were in charge of the Office, what would you do?
- What advice would you give to a queer student considering attending BYU?