Student Government passed a resolution Wednesday night in opposition to Brigham Young University (BYU) possibly joining the Big 12 Conference.
Sen. Abhijit Patwa introduced the resolution regarding BYU, arguing that Student Government should not support BYU’s membership bid to the Big 12 Conference at this time.
The reason behind the resolution is that Patwa, and later Student Government, has determined that “BYU’s discriminatory policies and practices are inconsistent with the values of the Big 12.”
BYU has fallen under fire recently in regard to its Honor Code, which according to the resolution, the Honor Code “explicitly prohibits its students, staff and faculty from 'not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.'”
BYU, located in Provo, Utah, and owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints (LDS), has been near the top of the list of potential Big 12 expansion candidates.
Patwa introduced the resolution to the Senate by citing an anecdote to Jack Trice, the first African-American athlete at Iowa State College. Trice died following a football game against the University of Minnesota in 1923, after sustaining injuries during the game.
“[It is] widely accepted that the attack on Jack Trice was racially motivated,” Patwa said, further referencing that by passing this resolution that it’s time Student Government “take a stance to what we believe in.”
Vice Speaker Conner Tillo furthered the debate, arguing that it’s their [Student Government’s] responsibility to advocate for their fellow Big 12 Universities.
Student Government President Cole Staudt offered comments on the resolution, arguing against Patwa that he feels the Senate should not pass the BYU resolution.
“I have been speaking with other presidents of Big 12 institutions," Staudt said. "A number of them said that they don’t believe we should be taking a position at all."
Staudt also said that while he does not agree with BYU’s honor code at all, he is in a struggle, stating that it might be somewhat hypocritical of Student Government to say that it can’t be a part of the Big 12 community.
“You can’t change people by making them sit in the corner,” Staudt said.
Sen. Zoey Shipley also countered the resolution and backed Staudt’s argument, saying that the conduct of BYU is based on its beliefs, and when students go to that school, they go there because of their beliefs.
“It takes one student to say, ‘Wow, you don’t agree with them, you don’t agree with me,’” Shipley said.
Sen. Cody Woodruff, who was in support of passing the resolution, said he talked to a friend who has a relationship to BYU and said that students want this reform at their university. Many senators were hesitant in passing the resolution, however, because they felt it wasn’t their position or to make a statement at this time.
Patwa later countered, saying, “I am a heterosexual male. I am not an athlete. This in no way affects me, but this problem is bigger than us.”
Other senators felt that in passing the resolution, it gets in the way of free speech and the First Amendment.
“I’m against this resolution ...,” said Sen. Eric Schultz. “[I] believe it’s a free speech issue, BYU has right to believe in what they want, and if you don’t like it, don’t go to their school.”
One of the last arguments debated stemmed from whether the issue was timely, as the decision to whether BYU could enter the conference wouldn’t be decided until later in the semester.
“There are many schools still in the running,” said Speaker Danielle Nygard. “Maybe this resolution is not the right time and place.”
After nearly an hour of debating over the specifics of the resolution, many senators found themselves heated over the topic.
Leading into a recess, Staudt, who had been objected to speaking a second time during the meeting, began yelling at the Senate regarding the resolution.
"I’m disappointed, I don’t have to be here. It’s [disrespectful] to say that you don’t have the time to listen to us," Staudt said, as about half of the senators left the room for a short break.
“You make change by embracing people,” Staudt said. “...This resolution is not the way you make change. We don’t make change by excluding people.
“You don’t say to a student, to me, that you can’t sit here for five more minutes.”
Following the recess, Sen. Woodruff helped conclude arguments, saying, “BYU is inclusive, but discriminatory.”
21 senators voted for the resolution, while six voted against.
The resolution will be sent to Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Baylor University Interim President David Garland, Iowa State University President Steven Leath, University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, Kansas State University Interim President General Richard Myers, University of Oklahoma President David Boren, Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis, University of Texas at Austin President Dr. Gregory Fenves, Texas Christian University Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr., Texas Tech University President Dr. Lawrence Schovanec, and West Virginia University President Dr. E. Gordon Gee.
Also addressed at the meeting was the passing of a bill that will eliminate the monthly allocation process for funding.
“Students need money now,” said Sen. Steven Valentino, while pushing to have the bill passed.
By cutting the monthly allocation and streamlining it to a different process, it allows Student Government to better filter the funding process for student groups.
According to the act, taking this process away can lower the risk of having to waive a second read due to a club or organization needing money in the immediate future when a request is replaced rather than the end of the month, which is thought to be inconvenient based on the need for the allocation.
The removal of the monthly allocation process was passed in a majority vote by the Senate.
The meeting concluded with closing comments, where Staudt apologized for interrupting the meeting, but said he was not sorry, and would do it again if the circumstances were all there.
He reminded the Senate, however, that no matter what happens in the meetings, they’re all still friends and colleagues.