Brigham Young University is drawing criticism after it removed pamphlets providing information on off-campus LGBTQ resources and activities from welcome bags for incoming freshman students last month in more negative publicity for the Provo, Utah private school which is already in the headlines for an alleged racist incident at a volleyball match.
The university, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pulled the pamphlets that were created by a local group from the bags because it wants students to use its Office of Belonging as the primary resource for support and counseling, according to an NBC News report.
Made by the nonprofit group RaYnbow Collective which is not officialy affiliated with BYU, the literature provided information on weekly and monthly events for homosexual students including scholarships and funding, affordable housing, therapy and pride get togethers.
Maddison Tenney, a gay BYU student who founded RaYnbow Collective told NBC News that her own loneliness as a freshman at the university, which has rules against same sex students dating or showing affection for each other, inspired her to create the pamphlets.
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“I remember sitting in my white dorm room with these cement walls and breaking down,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone who was like me, who wanted to be faithful and embrace the fullness of themselves.”
“She recalled seeing a lip balm tube, an item that was in her freshman bag, and thinking she could have used so much more than lip balm to get through that time in her life,” according to NBC News.
The group worked with BYU’s student newspaper The Daily Universe which assembles the welcome bags to include the pamphlets which Tenney described as “very vanilla, very in line with church teachings.”
She paid a $200 fee, signed a contract with the paper and 5,000 of the pamphlets were dropped off on August 12. “We tried really hard to make sure it was kosher and in line with policy,” Tenney said, adding that other area LGBTQ organizations collaborated on the effort. “We didn’t hear anything back besides, ‘It looks great.’”
But on August 23, she received an Instagram message from a friend who is a resident assistant instructing her to go to every room where the welcome bags had been left to remove the pamphlets.
After attempting to find out who gave the order to remove the literature from the bags, Tenney discovered that “Office of Student Life that it made the decision to remove them because they went against the church,” according to NBC News.
In an emailed statement to Today.com explaining why the pamphlets were removed, BYU said that it “would like our students and employees to utilize our new Office of Belonging as their primary resource in these efforts.”
“The decision to remove the materials by Student Life was based on the university’s commitment to provide support through the Office of Belonging and our counseling services and not to allow outside entities to imply affiliation with or endorsement from the university,” according to the statement.
One of the events sponsored by RaYnbow Collective was a “family friendly” drag queen show over the weekend,
“The RaYnbow Collective is a volunteer organization located in Provo, Utah, focused on creating and identifying safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff at Brigham Young University. To accomplish this, we develop networks across Utah with organizations, businesses, artists, and activists to support BYU students wherever they are physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” the group states on its website.
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