Brigham Young University Pres. Rex Lee shared a part of his birthday on Thursday answering questions from the BYU student body.
The question-and-answer session was Lee's fifth since becoming BYU's president in 1989. He fielded questions on topics ranging from rent controls on student housing to student elections.Lee even spent a few moments with a pointed party hat on his head while the audience sang "Happy Birthday." Thursday was his 57th birthday.
But that didn't stop students from firing off some direct questions.
Kevin Livingstone from Rolling Hills, Calif., asked Lee if allowing Geneva Steel to sponsor parts of BYU basketball, particularly the "Steelman of the game," wasn't endorsing a political candidate.
"If your premise is correct, then the conclusion follows like night and day. But we have not endorsed a candidate," Lee said. All such promotions are handled through KSL television.
"I really don't think, however, that there is any kind of implicit recommendation for any candidate," Lee said.
Livingstone's other question was even more direct. "Why not impose rent controls?" he asked. Because BYU requires specific living conditions for all unmarried students, why not control the price as well?
"You'd love us to do anything that would diminish the amount of money you have to pay. I know it," Lee said. But he is not willing to impose rent controls on a free market system.
"I think that when you look at the total package of problems we would have, some of your problems would be resolved . . . but the amount of additional problems it would create for me are totally out of proportion. I understand your views, but I probably won't do anything about it," Lee said.
Lee also spent a lot of time answering questions about the recent Student Association presidential elections.
Under current policy, presidential candidates are selected by a panel made up of members from BYU Student Life and the Student Association. The candidates are then voted on by the student body.
Before the policy change, however, any student was allowed to run for president. And campaigns sometimes had a circus atmosphere.
"When I returned to BYU 21/2 years ago I thought, in my incurably conservative ways, `of course it was better in my days,' just look at the sterling kinds of candidates they got," he said. (Lee served as BYU student body president from 1959 to 1960.)
But Lee's opinion has slowly changed over the past year to accept the new policy on campaigns.
"Now I realize how much (the president) relies on and how important it is to the university to have good responsive and active people that he can work with," Lee said.
Lee felt that any further changes in election policy should come from student government and Student Life.