View Full Version : BYU Students Protest Cheney Commencement Plans

03-29-2007, 07:54 AM
BYU students protest Cheney commencement plans


Thursday, March 29, 2007

PROVO, Utah (AP) -- A growing number of students, faculty and alumni at Brigham Young University are opposing the selection of Vice President Dick Cheney as commencement speaker.

Some students plan to boycott graduation April 26, hold alternative ceremonies off campus or publicly protest the speech, said Warner Woodworth, a professor who is organizing a petition drive.

Woodworth and others are hoping the school, which is owned by the Mormon church, will drop the invitation or at least bring a Democrat to campus to counter the vice president.

"Cheney is of such an unsavory character, that he makes his protege, felon Scooter Libby, who was recently convicted of perjury and obstructing justice, seem as pure as a nun," Woodworth said.

Richard Davis, a political-science professor and adviser to college Democrats, said the student group is considering various types of protests but nothing has been decided.

"It's fascinating that there's so much talk of doing something," Davis said. "I hope there is some way of channeling this frustration and concern so it can be dealt with in a constructive way."

Cheney's office contacted BYU about speaking at graduation. Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including President Gordon B. Hinckley, responded with an invitation.

An online petition has been posted at http://cheneyspeech.blogspot.com/. As of Wednesday, it had about 1,100 names, primarily people who said they were current or former BYU students.

A student group has asked university officials for approval to reserve space to collect signatures on a petition protesting Cheney's visit. The request is pending, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said.

Students have formed at least seven different groups on the social networking Web site Facebook.com to protest Cheney's speech, while there are at least two in support.

David Laffen, chairman of BYU's Republican club, said Cheney's visit is good because it is sparking debate on each side and encouraging people to become involved.

Davis said he worries Cheney's presence will fuel the perception that all Mormons are Republicans.

"The university has billed itself as being neutral, but we've had a pattern of bringing high-profile conservatives like Sandra Day O'Connor, Margaret Thatcher, George H.W. Bush and now Dick Cheney," he said.

"I can't think of a speaker at commencement or forum who was clearly identified as being politically liberal -- or even a Democrat," Davis said.

LDS church spokesman Rob Howell said BYU has had political figures speak in the past. The appearances are not an endorsement of the person or a platform.