At BYU — in the heart of what has been called the reddest county in the nation — the mere possibility of Vice President Dick Cheney coming to campus is getting some blue blood boiling.
Cheney is scheduled to be Brigham Young University’s keynote speaker at this year’s graduation ceremonies. While it is a day of celebration for many, some BYU administrators and faculty, alongside parents and students, are expressing displeasure with the VP’s visit.
Despite the opposition, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said that there are currently no plans to eliminate Cheney as a part of the graduation ceremonies.
BYU Marriott School professor Warner Woodworth said that he has received e-mails from all over the world expressing dismay over Cheney’s visit.
Woodworth said that some of those e-mails came from parents and LDS stake presidents, particularly in Latin America, expressing anger that Cheney — whom they called a “warmonger” — will be representing their children and their church.
Woodworth said that administrators, faculty and even some students and parents are refusing to attend graduation ceremonies if Cheney is speaking. Pickets and other forms of protest are also being planned, he said.
Nephi Henry, a BYU student who will be graduating next month, is working with other students in organizing opposition to Cheney’s visit.
Henry said his group felt that it was not appropriate for someone of such an “inflammatory” nature to be at BYU. Henry criticized the move to have Cheney because the vice president does not meet the university’s policy on speakers having “a good public reputation and a moral private life.” Additionally, he said the invitation violated BYU’s policy of political neutrality.
“It certainly looks like the church is endorsing someone of a highly patrician political nature,” he said.
Woodworth also expressed concern over Cheney’s fitness to speak to graduates at commencement ceremonies. He said that Cheney’s moral values were not in line with what BYU represents.
“Cheney’s coming here is a contradiction of what we’re trying to do,” he said. “We represent an institution of peace, he represents an institution of war … an institution of deception and outright lies.” he said.
Despite the harsh criticism that Cheney’s invitation has generated, some students and faculty members don’t feel that sit-outs and pickets are appropriate.
BYU law school alumna turned Ph.D. student Betsy Fowler took a more cautious approach to the debate.
“A university is a forum for ideas. While members of the university community have the right to make a statement by not attending, personally I think it is too bad that professors would elect not to support their students whose work and dedication this commencement is intended to celebrate,” she said.
BYU professor of Spanish and Portuguese Ted Lyon is among those who are very displeased at the scheduling of the vice president. While Lyon is not planning to sit out, he does believe that if a political message is going to be issued, then it is necessary to issue a political message on the other side. “I’m suggesting that we invite Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama,” he said.
Lyon said that he has been included in e-mails involving more than 200 students about the vice president’s visit. Lyon said the messages had a tone and tenor of “we want our graduation to have a spiritual tone, not a political tone.”
Henry said that he is leaning toward a boycott of his own graduation if Cheney speaks.
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