A Brigham Young University administrator decided to remove a resource pamphlet for LGBTQ students and allies from gift bags being given to the incoming freshmen class.
BYU paid $2,000 to the LGBTQ groups involved to cover the printing costs for “Allyship & Activism Resource Guide: LGBTQ+ Edition.”
The pamphlet had been accepted by the campus newspaper, the Universe, for addition to the bags it annually distributes to freshmen in campus dorms. The LGBTQ groups had paid $200 as part of a contract with the Universe to distribute the pamphlets. The Universe also refunded that fee.
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the decision to remove the pamphlets was made after other campus administrators saw them in the bags.
“Residence Life and New Student Orientation were not involved in preparing these bags and were not aware of the contents until after they had been distributed to some on-campus resident halls,” she said in an email. “The decision to remove the materials by Student Life was based on the university’s commitment 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. “
The pamphlet included information about campus resources for LGBTQ students, such as counseling.
But it also included information about off-campus resources not approved by the university.
“We would like our students and employees to utilize our new Office of Belonging as their primary resource in these efforts,” Jenkins said. “When we learned that a bag of promotional materials, which came through the advertising section of the student newspaper, was being distributed through residential buildings on campus, the decision was made to remove some materials from an organization outside of the university.
BYU created the Office of Belonging last year. Its new office near the Cougareat food court in the Wilkinson Student Center is opening with the start of the fall semester on Monday. The office is part of university’s effort to support minority students.
The pamphlet included information about Understanding Sexuality, Gender, and Allyship (USGA), an unofficial, off-campus club for LGBTQ BYU students, and a Sept. 3 Back to School Pride Night at Kiwanis Park organized by the RaYnbow Collective. BYU reportedly also removed a flyer for that event from the gift bags.
The groups posted a joint statement on social media in reaction to the incident. The groups say they are currently in conversations with BYU to “figure out amends and how to move forward.”
The statement was signed by Carolyn Gassert, Understanding Gender, Sexuality and Allyship; Julia Sasine, Cougar Pride Center; Maddison Tenney, The RaYnbow Collective; and John Valdez, The OUT Foundation.
“While we received a refund, we would have rather had these resources available,” the statement said. “It took hundreds of hours and over 50 volunteers to provide this packet and other resources. This decision is disappointing and disheartening.”
BYU’s new Vice President of Belonging, Carl Hernandez, met with the students who created the pamphlets, Jenkins said.
“BYU recognizes and welcomes LGBTQ individuals as part of our broader covenant-keeping university community,” she said. “We love and welcome our LGBTQ students, employees and friends and want them to feel a sense of belonging as we work together to be true to our covenants and the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Universe is reviewing its approval process for advertising content in the freshmen gift bags, Jenkins said.