BYU NewsNet has a look back at BYU in the sixties, entitled BYU Calm Amid Turbulent Times. The article relates the experience of a BYU prof who, during that era, came to the campus (as a student) from New York, noting that this was “a time when most college campuses had protests, riots and violence. While many New York students marched along the streets protesting, most BYU students remained calm during this storm of unrest.” BYU, the best of all possible campuses!
There were, however, sporadic protests against BYU and its policies (perceived as discriminatory because of an absence of African-American students) by students from other campuses, principally at away games for the athletic teams. Quoting the article: “The controversy climaxed when then-Stanford University President Kenneth Spitzer suspended relations with BYU either athletic or non-athletic because there were no blacks on any athletic teams.” Yet President Wilkinson, BYU’s president at this time, is quoted as saying that “the only problem on BYU campus during the Civil Rights Era was ensuring the guidelines of the dress, grooming and dance standards were followed.” That either means civil rights aren’t really that important or that dress and grooming standards are really, really important.
I’m reminded of a quote from a documentary about the movie Apollo 13 from one of the actual engineers of the time, who emerged from one of the mission control buildings after a long shift to observe student protestors outside the facility (protesting spending federal dollars on NASA rather than social programs). The engineer was utterly baffled by what was going on — he was so busy and focused that he simply missed the sixties. I think BYU kind of missed the sixties too. Was that a good thing or a bad thing?