Banned at BYU’ too hot for the U?

A forum titled “Banned at BYU” will no longer be held on campus this week because it was postponed and renamed after student government leaders feared it would anger state legislators, said a member of ASUU.

The two-day event was originally scheduled for Thursday and included a series of lectures and discussions on the subject of academic freedom with former faculty members from Brigham Young University.

Jared Kubly, a vice chairman in the ASUU Presenter’s Office who organized the event, said Jake Kirkham, president of Associated Students of the University of Utah, and other student leaders were afraid that holding the event would hurt ASUU’s image and ability to lobby funds from the state Legislature to build a campus recreation center.

“There was a concern over upsetting powerful people in the community-legislators, whomever,” Kubly said.

He said Kirkham’s administration feared that bashing a private school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would offend LDS legislators.

“(Specifically), that the opinion of the Legislature would be affected and that would be reflected in their voting,” Kubly said.

Kubly said members of the U administration told ASUU leadership that the event would reflect poorly on the U.

ASUU leaders said that the event was altered to not “bash” on any one school. They did not say that the event was changed to the Legislature happy.

“We just want to build relationships with everyone in the state,” said Toby Collett, ASUU vice president. “(BYU) is a wonderful institution. We work a lot with them and we just wanted it to be a positive academic freedom forum.”

The event, which Kubly is still organizing and is now titled “Academic Freedom at Religious Institutions,” will be held in late October and will include professors from other private schools in addition to three professors who were fired from BYU.

“We haven’t backed out of anything; we’re simply moving (the forum and) we’re changing the format because initially it was about educational freedom, not just BYU,” said Kyle Hansen, director of programming in the Presenter’s Office.

Jeffrey Nielsen is among the former BYU professors scheduled to speak at the event in October. Nielsen was the subject of local headlines after he was fired from BYU for writing a column in The Salt Lake Tribune criticizing LDS church policy toward homosexuals.

Kubly said he was disappointed by ASUU’s move.

“I told them I didn’t think it was right, but it’s their decision ultimately,” Kubly said. “We could rename it ‘Banned at the U of U,’ I guess.”

While having to change the event was a letdown, Kubly said students will still benefit from the discussion.

“I think that those who come will get the original point that academic freedom is necessary,” he said.