Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cheney Invitation Inspires Ire At BYU

Those of us Baby Boomers who hear about "student protests" and "campus sit-ins" instantly recall the political demonstrations made famous during the 1960's free speech movement on liberal campuses like U.C. Berkeley, S.F. State, and others. Long-haired, tie-dye wearing hippy dudes in V.W. vans blasting protest music and picking up like-minded hitch-hikers on the way to anti-war marches come quickly to mind.

Times have changed.

This time, it wasn't liberal coastal campuses hosting large anti-establishment rallies, sit-ins, and sign-waving, anti-government dissent. No, no. This time, it was Brigham Young University (BYU), perhaps the nation's most conservative college, the reddest campus in the reddest state in America.

At the Mormon University owned and operated by the LDS church, public protest and dissent are rare. Unity, propriety, and pro-Americanism have always been the norm there, where any serious opposition to leaders of the Republican Party tends to raise disapproving eye brows. Nevertheless, open protests by students and faculty at BYU erupted recently over the decision to invite Vice President Dick Cheney to be this year's BYU commencement speaker (Cheney spoke at BYU on 4/26/07).

Despite the fact that nearly all of the student and faculty at BYU are strong conservatives, and the vast majority registered Republicans, many at BYU feel that Cheney's personal behavior and governmental policies do not at all reflect the traditional Christian/American values (honesty, fairness, integrity, freedom from debt, respect for the Bill of Rights, clean language, etc.) taught at the University and in the LDS church.

From a recent New York Times article:
“The problem is this is a morally dubious man,” said Andrew Christensen, a 22-year-old Republican from Salt Lake City. “It’s challenging the morality and integrity of this institution."

In restrained campus demonstrations on 4/4/07 and again on 4/26/07, several hundred BYU students, faculty, and staff protested Cheney's speech. An "alternative commencement" in neighboring Orem, Utah was miraculously funded and produced at the last minute (despite active local opposition) featuring Ralph Nader as speaker, and more than 3800 LDS members signed an online petition in opposition to the Cheney invitation.

Read the entire article here.

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