OREM — As a Brigham Young University law professor accepted Utah Valley State College's Excellence in Ethics Award, he said he'd like to see BYU and soon-to-be Utah Valley University unite to transform the Utah County community through community justice.
"If I could have my way, every student at both BYU and UVU would be required to complete some kind of course in community justice," BYU law professor David Dominguez said. "That would be the ultimate dream because I have seen what students are capable of."
UVSC presented Dominguez with an Excellence in Ethics Award on Thursday to recognize "someone who has worked so hard to promote fairness and morality in this community," said Elaine Englehardt, a UVSC professor of ethics for 30 years.
Other recipients of the award include Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Zimmerman, philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. and the Dalai Lama.
In his work with the community, Dominguez said he tries to unite people though the principles of community justice, which includes accepting accountability to strengthen the community, recognizing symbiotic relationships with other community members and working to understand others' points of view.
He shared an experience where he and BYU students used these principles to help unite residents of the crime-riddled Boulder Apartments in Provo.
After long, in-depth conversations with residents, Dominguez decided to bring them all together with a series of community potluck dinners.
"It's always the case, isn't it, if someone offers the chance to eat together it's hard to pass up?" he joked.
Eventually, the community joined together and the apartment complex's image changed dramatically, he said.
"Police like to brag that during the time we were out there the crime level plummeted by two-thirds," he said.
David Keller, director of the Center for the Study of Ethics at UVSC, said people in the academic field tend neglect application of principle and focus on theoretical discussion.
"But perhaps what is more important, in terms of ethics, is those people who get out and actively improve the condition of man on a grass-roots level," he said.
Dominguez said he's always tried to be a type of "hell-raiser" in the community since his days at University of California, Berkley.
"I do not let powerful institutions steam-roll the innocent, the poor, the defenseless," he said. "I do not let that happen."
As UVSC President William A. Sederburg presented the award, he said he hopes to establish a "community-engaged university" similar to the work Dominguez performs at BYU.
"David brings such an incredible positive energy to whatever he does," Sederburg said. "We believe David exemplifies the traits of excellence in ethics."