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LGBTQ groups say BYU trashed their resource brochures

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Brigham Young University agreed to give out LGBTQ resource pamphlets to incoming freshmen next week — but then removed them from welcome bags and threw them away, according to the groups that created the pamphlets.

The groups, all of which support the queer community, say they had a $200 contract with the school through the student newspaper to include the resource guides in the bags given to new students on the first day of class, the fall term to start on Monday. .

The newspaper, called The Daily Universe, is overseen by BYU administrators. It organizes freshman welcome gifts every year, with sticker bags and school spirit equipment being checked by the communications faculty before being assembled. The bags are then distributed to student residences, where most of the approximately 5,000 new freshmen are living their first year.

This week, members of LGBTQ groups say they learned that the school – which is run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – had made what they call a “unilateral decision” to no longer include their six-page brochures.

Many printed booklets were thrown away as they were removed from the bags, said Maddison Tenney, founder of the Raynbow Collective, an off-campus nonprofit that supports BYU’s LBGTQ students and collected the guides. of resources. The few that weren’t ransacked were returned to him.

She said the collective was not informed of the decision by the school, but by an anonymous tip. When she contacted BYU, an administrator confirmed the takedown, she said.

“What’s heartbreaking is that’s the experience of being at BYU” as an LGBTQ student, said Tenney, who is also a senior who expects to graduate in December. “You have this beautiful community, and you love the school so much and they just don’t love you back.”

The school confirmed in a statement Friday to the Salt Lake Tribune that the brochures had been removed.

BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins said residence life and new student orientation administrators were unaware of what was in the bags until some have been distributed. When they learned about the brochures, an administrator decided to take them down.

Jenkins said the decision was made because the documents came from an outside group and the university instead wanted to “provide support through the Membership Office and our counseling services and not allow outside entities to imply university affiliation or endorsement….BYU’s goal is to create unity and belonging within our campus community.

But the brochures included college resources, including information about BYU’s counseling and psychology services.

The Office of School Belonging was created last year, as part of an effort to recognize and improve marginalized groups at BYU. Jenkins said the vice president has met with LGBTQ groups about the removal of the booklets.

The decision came days before the one-year anniversary of a senior church official coming to campus and criticized faculty members and students who challenge the faith’s teachings on same-sex marriage. In a speech that garnered national attention, LDS Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said they should instead take up their intellectual “muskets” to uphold “the doctrine of the family and…marriage as union of a man and a woman”.

This speech has caused discord in the LGBTQ community on campus, with many saying they did not feel safe. A group protested.

Removing the brochures so close to the anniversary caused additional pain, some students said on social media. And school politics already make them feel ostracized, a few noted.

(Trevor Christensen | Special for The Tribune) On Friday, August 27, 2021, approximately 30-40 protesters gathered at the edge of the Brigham Young University campus to demonstrate against recent remarks by Apostle Jeffery R of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Holland.

Although the faith does not prohibit gay members from attending services, they are instructed not to act on their attractions. Likewise, the private school prohibits, through its strict honor code, any same-sex romantic partnerships or displays of affection between LGBTQ students. Those who break the rules are subject to discipline.

The guides — called the Allyship & Activism Resource Guide: LGBTQ+ Edition — included information on how to access on-campus advice, where to apply for scholarships, a place to find gender-affirming clothing, and contact information for a resource advisor.

They also had a slate of events, including the back-to-school pride party hosted by the RaYnbow collective. It happens on September 3 at Kiwanis Park. Tenney said they would print more pamphlets to distribute afterwards. A flyer for that event, Tenney said, was also removed from the bag.

Other events listed in the brochure were club meetings for students of color on campus, such as the Black Menaces, and for Understanding Sexuality, Gender, and Allyship, or USGA, a group for LGBTQ BYU students. The USGA is not approved by the school and is not permitted to meet on campus. But the brochure contained information about their weekly meetings at the library in Provo.

The USGA also helped put together the brochures, along with the Cougar Pride Center (a student-run, off-campus LGBTQ resource center), The OUT Foundation (a group of queer BYU alumni), and Equality Utah.

The groups issued a joint statement on Thursday, expressing their disappointment at the decision to throw away their pamphlets.

“We are currently in discussions with BYU to find an apology and how to move forward,” they wrote. “…There will always be LGBTQ+ students at BYU, and our goal is to support all students on campus, especially those who experience discrimination.”

The groups said they spent 350 hours with the help of 50 volunteers putting together the booklets. Tenney added that it cost about $2,000 to print them, which they funded through donations. The Daily Universe, she said, did not make the decision to remove them from freshmen’s bags, but the paper provided the groups with full refunds, including printing costs.

Tenney said materials were approved by faculty before and after the contract was paid.

“Although we received a refund,” the groups wrote in their letter, “we would have preferred to have had these resources. … No student should feel alone and no student should feel rejected by their university because of their identity. We hope BYU will improve its contract compliance, educate its employees on standard diversity and inclusion training, and provide these resource guides to all BYU students in the future.

Jenkins said the student newspaper would review its approval process in the future and confirmed the refund.

Carolyn Gassert, president of the USGA, said the decision was infuriating.

“It’s exhausting to have something like this,” Gassert said. “…It’s a constant reminder that they don’t want us there and don’t care about our lives.”

Jenkins, however, said BYU “recognizes and welcomes LGBTQ people as part of our larger, covenant-respecting college community.”

Several others also commented on social media, calling it “completely outrageous” and “an unnecessary short-sighted choice.”

Emma Gee, a former BYU student who came out as gay while on the school’s track team, called the decision “a blatant move to withhold critical information from vulnerable people.” on Instagram.

Jillian Orr, who is bisexual and graduated from BYU this spring in a rainbow dress that went viral, said on TikTok that she was angry.

“I don’t understand how BYU can continue to isolate and separate and separate those who are in this community,” she said. “It is unacceptable.”

Several people said the resources save lives, saying they would have appreciated seeing them as freshmen on the conservative campus. The OUT Foundation called it “censorship”.

The RaYnbow Collective wrote in an article, “What does a banned book look like at BYU? Sometimes it is 6 pages long and lists scholarships, resources, and therapy for marginalized students.

Tenney said the groups tried to be respectful and careful when putting together the pamphlets. She felt they didn’t include anything that went against school policies. But when she spoke to an administrator, Tenney said she was told the information was removed because it was deemed ‘derogatory’ to the church – not because it came from a group outside.

Tenney added that she has no plans to stop trying to provide resources for LGBTQ students on campus.

The groups that created the booklets plan to hold events this week to recognize gay students at the start of class, including drawing messages of support in chalk near the school. She also invited those interested to help fund more books and additional resources at Venmo @raynbowcollective.

Tenney said, “I just wanted the students to be safe and taken care of.”

Here is a copy of the brochure: