Sit-in at BYU’s JFSB Quad

Demonstrators, April 4, 2007, BYU

Demonstrators, April 4, 2007, BYU

Here’s a shot of today’s demonstration/sit-in/protest at BYU. By my rough estimate, there were about 250 students and faculty participating at any one time, with a total count during the 2 hours of 700-800 (not counting passers-by).

Some of the signs hoisted by the participants were:
“One Nation under…..Surveillance.”
“That’s Ok, I didn’t need my civil rights anyway.”
“Cheney should go to…..BYU.”
“You Lied [under large photo of Cheney] — They Died [with large photo of Bush made up of 1″ photos of what may have been servicemen and women].”
“Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Torture.”
“Love your enemies…unless they’re an enemy combatant.”
“I’ll welcome Cheney when you invite Obama.”
“Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?”
[On a t-shirt] “Cheney, are you honest in all your dealings?”

“ ‘When enemies come up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of Gods of stone and steel–ships, planes, missiles, fortifications–and depend on them for protection and deliverance.’ Pres. Kimball, June, 1976.” [someone else’s photo of this sign here]
“Subversive Liberal Anti-establishment Anarchists? But I’m Republican!”


There was a competing demonstration to support Cheney. It was held southwest of the Bookstore. When I visited there, there were 42 people hanging around. I didn’t revisit that location, so I don’t have a total estimate.

Some of the signs there were:
“BYU Welcomes VP Cheney.”
“I don’t like his politics but I welcome him with open arms at BYU!”
“I love Dick [then “Cheney,” in a much smaller print].”
“I support those supporting those who support Cheney!”


  1. “I love Dick [then “Cheney,” in a much smaller print].”
    “I support those supporting those who support Cheney!”


  2. Fascinating. Thanks for the on-the-street perspective.

  3. Yep. I’ll add a couple photos of signs.

  4. John Williams says:

    OK, maybe I’m betraying my naivete, but could someone please explain what the numbers 3257 and 3291 mean?

  5. What did your sign say?

  6. Makes you wonder how serious the counter-demonstrators were.

  7. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    John Williams- death tolls

  8. Oncampus says:

    John, 3257 appears to be a count of U.S. military fatalities in Iraq. See

  9. John Williams says:


  10. John, I quite liked your review in the current Dialogue of Proving Contraries: A Collection of Writings in Honor of Eugene England. Thanks.
    (and SMB, your review of “God’s Army 2: States of Grace” in the same issue motivated me to pick the movie up, though I have yet to watch it).

  11. Excellent photos. Thanks for posting them. This seems to be a milestone for BYU. Does anyone remember any historical precedent for a prior student led, and administration approved political protest at anytime at BYU?

  12. My hats off to the anti-Cheney protesters.

  13. Guy (#11), Berger and Priddis, in Chapter 5 of Brigham Young University: House of Faith, have a section on “Student Protests.” There have been previous political protests by students.
    An interesting contrast to today’s event was the 1969 visit of then V.P. Spiro Agnew.
    From House of Faith:
    “In March 1969, representatives of a “Free Student Coalition” presented a list of sixteen demands–including recognition of a student Mobilization for Peace club, abolishment of ROTC class credit, and establishment of a civil rights week–to an unreceptive BYU administration. Wilkinson, in an April memo to his public relations director, expressed increased anxieity that “nothing get started on this campus against the ROTC” and blamed nation-wide demonstrations on “communist revolutionaries.” “Their ultimate goal,” he later explained publicly, was “outright opposition to the `middle class’ and defiant destruction of our existing social order. . . . Any student who, by any revolutionary tactics, would attempt to destroy our government . . . should have his revolutionary dreams fulfilled by having his citizenship revoked.” At devotional services in late April, Elder Boyd Packer invited would-be critics of traditional religious and democratic values to study elsewhere. When rumors of a possible student demonstration against the appearance of U.S. vice-president Spiro Agnew surfaced in early May, fine arts dean Lorin F. Wheelwright suggested that the university “alert some of our outstanding students to be ready to stand up for what we believe, . . . such as athletic heroes, queens, student body officers, and our outstanding debators. It would be hard for the media not to recognize such students or to ignore their statements in favor of our position.” Wilkinson agreed, and administrators subsequently identified four such students to “give balance to the controversy,” but Agnew’s scheduled appearance took place without incident.

  14. Latter-day Guy says:

    Why is it that college students feel that they must protest everything? I mean, a protest of the protest? It seems that some people need more homework.

    The most significant statement they could make is simply not attend the commencement. Or, better yet, show up in bright orange hunting vests and sit near the front. However, I guess they just won’t feel important unless they tap into the legacy of actually *significant* protests.

  15. Nick Literski says:

    As someone who is none-too-thrilled to see his eldest daughter heading off next fall to the ultra-homogenous BYU campus, I am truly delighted to see that these students (a) were willing to protest Cheney’s visit, and (b) were allowed to do so by the administration. It actually gives me a glimmer of hope!

  16. Stirling, thanks for the reference from Berger and Priddis. Sounds like what they were describing was a bit different in that at least today’s protests actually have the administration’s (and by extension) the Church’s blessing.

  17. John Williams says:

    These protests are pretty awesome. But since the Church owns BYU, does it have the right to arrest these students? I don’t think Anti-Mormon protestors can set foot on the Conference Center grounds, so I would imagine that technically these protestors don’t have a right to demonstrate on BYU property.

  18. John (#17), there’s a lot of dispute over that, apparently. The campus has the look and feel of public space, so it should legally be open for protesters despite the fact that it’s private property. The university attempts to short-circuit this by closing down the entire campus for one day every year during the Christmas break, to show the public (well, the part of the public likely to notice during the break) that the campus isn’t public property after all.

    My very uninformed impression is that no one’s ever really challenged BYU on this in court but that if someone did so, the university might well lose the case.

  19. Latter-day Guy says:

    These protesters have the approval of the BYU admin. There will be no arrests.

    What happened to the good ol’ days of protesting? Why are none of these students willing to light themselves on fire for the sake of peace? Self immolation sends a message that glib slogans really cannot.

  20. I wish I could have stayed at the protest longer– I would have liked to talk to more people. But I did get my button (“Cheney– are you honest in your dealings with fellow men”) And my white armband (since I forgot to wear a white shirt.) And I did hear the “Pro BYU” side was enticing people with free food and face painting.

    I loved seeing so many professors and, well, adults, out there. I’m glad to know this wasn’t just a student protest.

  21. Oh yes, my favorite poster was:

    “Do you ever ask yourselves these questions?
    1. Where did Cheney come from?
    2. What is Cheney doing here?
    3. Where is Cheney going when he dies?”

  22. I’m sorry, Latter-day Guy, self immolation is a violation of the Honor Code. Repeat offenders may face disciplinary action up to and including academic suspension.

  23. This may have been said in other posts, but what are they protesting exactly? That Dick Cheney is going to speak at their school? Would they prefer someone more milquetoast? How boring would it be to have only non-controversial speakers come speak at your school? Perhaps BYU should focus on getting my aunt Ruby come speak on her latest knitting endeavor, just so no one is offended. For heaven’s sake, if the purpose of college is to broaden horizons, then you’ve got to have speakers there who don’t agree with you, even if you find them morally reprehensible.

    This protest also reminds me of an article sidebarred in T&S the other day. The link is here, and it’s damn funny:

  24. Stirling–did you notice many faculty members? Somehow, I didn’t get the protest on my calendar or I would’ve been there. (I did sign the petition on Ronan’s blog.) I wonder if faculty members feel more threatened than students in participating in protests. I suspect my husband would not have gone, since his picture in the paper might have tried the faith of some of our stake members.

  25. Taryn,

    Why would the BYU lose such a case? Why should it be open for public protest? Should your chapel likewise be open for public protest? The campus is not public property. I seriously doubt it meets the constitutional requirements of a traditional public forum. Just weeks ago BYU successfully kept off campus protesters off campus because it is private property and they were not welcome. I disagree BYU would lose such a case.

  26. Heather P. says:

    The Salt Lake Tribune’s article puts the estimate at over 200. I wish I’d made a clever poster. My t-shirt said “Seek Peace” and “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “Renounce War Proclaim Peace.” Two of my former professors participated in the protest, and I did see other faculty there as well.

  27. Matt W. says:

    From the pictures, I wonder how many at the protest were BYU students…

  28. Margaret, I saw 25-30 faculty I know; there were likely plenty of others that I don’t know. Someone who is on BYU’s faculty now would recognize more faces and could offer a more complete count. Several of the news organizations with cameras seemed to focus on interviewing faculty, so I would guess the various evening news casts will show 6 or 8 faculty.

  29. Latter-day Guy says:

    …and join us next fall for the protest of Harry Reid’s speaking engagement by the BYU chapter of Student Neo-Cons for the Summary Torture of All Non-WASPS.

  30. Sterling says:

    The news reports are pouring in. Look here and here and here and here and here. It looks like UPI has picked up the story and started distributing it nationally.

  31. Aw, you forgot my favorite sign: “Cheney and Voldamort [sic] 2008.”

  32. …and join us next fall for the protest of Harry Reid’s speaking engagement by the BYU chapter of Student Neo-Cons for the Summary Torture of All Non-WASPS.

    Not that I would agree with such people, but keep in mind that several people find Harry Reid’s conduct reprehensible as well. He has power to limit abortion, but he doesn’t, for example. He supports a less-market based redistribution of wealth, which some might argue increases–rather than decreases–poverty. Whether you agree with these positions or not isn’t really the point. The point is that if colleges truly are marketplaces for ideas, then they ought to try to bring important people with important ideas to the table, even if some of the student body finds that person to be reprehensible.

  33. Oncampus says:

    As to the purpose of the demonstration (JimBob in #23), I think a club called the “College Democrats” organized the sit-in. Their site (and the flyers they handed out) included this: “The University will be honored to host a sitting Vice President of the United States. The BYU College Democrats hope that even more political speakers of all backgrounds come to visit our campus.”

    So, the formal purpose was to encourage BYU to include a wider spectrum of people in who it invites to campus.

    In today’s Daily Universe, BYU Political Scientist David Magleby has an op-ed piece called, “True Civic Dialogue.” He encourages the community to treat Cheney (Sen. Reid, and Justice Roberts, when they come) with respect.

  34. Latter-day Guy says:


    Thank you for the sane analysis. Your opinions are terribly unpopular though in the university atmosphere, as academia is amazingly tolerant of different viewpoints… as long as you don’t disagree with anything they say or hold a differing opinion,

  35. Re 33: So they’re publicly mocking Cheney in hopes that the University will invite other high-profile speakers, so that they can be publicly mocked as well?

  36. I actually like the idea of students at commencement wearing hunting vests, especially the law school grads.

    In the spirit of the New Yorker link noted here, I offer the following:

    I. How the students at the Marigold Plaza imagine the anti-Cheney protestors:

    Student 1: I really like your sign. I really like that it almost says bad words, but doesn’t.

    Student 2: Wo, dude, I thought those were bad words. It must be too much Red Bull!

    Student 1: My parents would so totally haul me home if they knew I was here!

    Student 3: Wow, you have two parents?

    II. How the students at the JFSB Quad imagine the pro-Cheney protestors:

    Student A: I hope I get extra credit for my Book of Mormon class for this!

    Student B: My dad said that Dick Cheney is the Red Horse in the White Horse prophecy!

    Student C: What’s the White House Prophecy? Does it have something to do with Elder Mick Romney?

    III. How the students at both events imagine the Administration:

    Administrator A: Look how well behaved these kids are. They really are a chosen generation!

    Administrator B: I wish I had a list of all the students who are down there so I could commend them!

    Administrator C: I don’t know. They seem to be having too much fun!

  37. And I had to graduate last year… dang.

  38. Natasha says:

    # 11. About 1,000 students protested the first gulf war, with administration approval.

  39. Taryn,
    I suspect that Guy (25) is right—sometimes private property is considered sufficiently public that the owners can’t prohibit protestors, but, if I remember by property class correctly, the New Jersey case(s) that held that a shopping mall couldn’t prohibit speech is pretty much an outlier, limited to New Jersey and malls. I would be amazed to find out it was even a close call.

  40. Natasha


  41. Guy and Sam,

    I wasn’t making any claims to great legal knowledge; I was just saying that there’s a debate about it.

  42. Mark N. says:

    #23 – Would they prefer someone more milquetoast?

    I think the word they’re aiming for would probably be something along the order of “Christ-like”.

  43. I think the word they’re aiming for would probably be something along the order of “Christ-like”.

    Now there’s relative term. Keep in mind that it’s highly likely Cheney thinks he’s saving lives in the future through his acts, and therefore is doing the right thing right now, even if some sacrifice is called for.

    Again, though, whether he’s right or not is largely irrelevant to my point, which is that I’m sure I could find something objectionable, and even non-Christ-like, in just about every important speaker out there. If you limit your speakers to only truly Christ-like individuals–which assumes the impossible event that you could agree on who or what that is–you’re effectively crossing off the list several important speakers.

  44. Jimbob, how is “Christ-like” a relative term? Do you know more than one? You probably meant to say that it’s a term subject to individual interpretation.

    I guess I reject your assumption that “important speakers” is the standard for a BYU commencement speech, especially since you directly imply that “important” has little to do with “Christ-like.”

  45. endlessnegotiation says:


    You answered your own question. “Relative” means “individual interpretation.” But then again, you Canadians tend to struggle with the English language.

  46. I’m glad to see BYU (and the church) really be more politically neutral, including the approval of protests. (Didn’t President Hinckley state in the War and Peace talk that protesting and stating your views were perfectly fine as long as they were legal and civil?)

  47. endlessnegotiation, the definition of “Christ-like” is self-evident. The application of the word to a particular circumstance is not. That’s the difference between a relative term and one subject to interpretation.

  48. yeah, I know, I’m not convinced either.

  49. “Enter to learn. Go forth to protest.”

    Truely, “The *World* Is Our Campus.”

  50. Not Ophelia says:

    The problem for most of us anti-war liberal types isn’t Cheney speaking at BYU, it’s Cheney speaking at BYU’s graduation.

    I wouldn’t care if he had been a forum speaker. That wouldn’t put some graduates and their families in such a horrible dilemma — attending their graduation and lending support to one of the main architects of war, greed and the shredding of the constitution, or forgoing what is to many the culminating event of their BYU experience.

    So yes. Invite the political types. As forum speakers. But keep graduation spiritual, uplifting and far, far from the such men and women as Cheney and his ilk.

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    Fun pictures and reports, Stirling and others. Thanks for putting us there. I just read our Newsweek, and they had an item on the approval of the protests, so it’s big news.

    Although a rare event by modern standards, BYU students were pretty feisty protestors about a century ago. If you do some archival work in the student paper of the time you’ll see that.

  52. pdmallamo says:

    Hear hear, Ophelia – in a nutshell. A commencement speaker carries the implicit endorsement or approval of the university; a forum speaker does not – in this case, a critical distinction.

  53. Nice. You guys might be interested to see the coverage of the protests on my photoblog.

  54. Nice pics.

  55. The Silent Observer says:

    A commencement speaker carries the implicit endorsement or approval of the university

    Kinda makes you wonder about those schools who invite Conan O’Brien or Ali G to speak at commencement.

  56. I personally don’t mind seeing a little political dialog and the way the university handled this is fine. However, in this particular case, it’s pointless…

    The protesting put on by politically starved students, who read a few books like Static, and jumped (by design) to the same conclusion as the author.

    Personally I am not a fan of Cheney, I think that he has made a lot of ‘less beneficial’ decisions. I am up-to-date with it…

    However, I would be more than interested to hear what he has to say. It’s not like he is going to come to BYU and preach ‘Hiel Bush’, or ‘Rock on Operation Iraqi Freedom’. He is going to come, and say “if you all work hard, one day you too can be VP”. Is that message so hard to digest?

    Just because he has made some scumbag-ish’ decisions doesn’t mean that he has nothing of worth to provide. He has extensive experience in things we only banter about (not to mention protest about…).

    If you really want to show your disdain for the administration picking Cheney for commencement, put your money where your mouth is and drop out, differ, or just simply NOT GO and get your diploma in the mail. Protesting this is a poor ineffective solution in my opinion, that will not change the outcome of this. Basically, the only real outcome of this is that observers are all tickled pink to be enlighted that you disagree.

    Please, think of the people that will go to commencement and DO NOT protest during it. It would make things so much more tasky.

    Oh, and Ophelia, umm, last I heard, the same people schedule forum speakers and commencement speakers no?

  57. RE # 56,

    Too many Kevin’s here. I’m with Ophelia here. Cheney’s appearance at BYU is not a problem, it;s the appearance of Cheney at commencement that is potentially a problem. I’d like to think he would tell Horatio Alger stories, but the wizard of Halliburton probably doesn’t have a lot of those. He has played the power card over and over again, and had by most estimates trampled the constitution, given questionable advice to his President, fostered a culture of misinformation and secrets, all to the detriment of our country.

    So just as UVSC gave Michael Moore and Sean Hannity both a chance to speak, give Cheney a chance to speak in a setting where it really is a forum of ideas and education, not setting him up as an example and mentor to our students who are supposed to be learning how to put their moral compass to work in the world.

  58. Jessawhy says:

    Re #33 The Op-Ed in the Daily Universe, I worked for David Magleby as an undergrad TA/RA, and my guess is that while he means what he says about being civil, he’s probably elated that there are enough liberal students on campus to support a protest like this. It’s quite interesting how many Democrats there are in the Poli Sci department. (Maybe it’s not to all of you, but as an undergrad, it was startling)
    Anyway, as the Dean, he may have been leaned on to write this piece (I think he was leaned on to become the Dean as well :)
    Great guy, though, good influence, and it looks like the students are following every word. ;)

  59. Joshua Ligairi says:

    According to Huffington Post the protesters were “100-200 strong at any given time” with an estimated participation of “700-800 total faculty and students.” Yes, I said faculty. They were there in droves. Okay…not droves, but tens.

    Jim Bob (#23)-The BYU Democrats are not against Cheney speaking on campus, but rather, speaking at commencement specifically. The idea is that a commencement invitation is a “stamp of approval” from a school (and church) that claims to be politically neutral.

    Also, they were showing their disapproval of his policy and actions and demonstrating how his actions are inconsistent with BYU (read LDS) values. If today’s demonstration shows anything, I think that it is that BYU students are explicitly not afraid or unaware of Dick Cheney’s actions or ideas. Many were quite well-versed. I even saw one student demonstrate Cheney’s approved “water boarding” form of torture. He lasted 8 seconds without dying (the average for torturees is 14 seconds). Very enlightening. And with the protest event culminating in a rousing rendition of the national anthem, I’d even say edifying.

  60. Not Ophelia has it right. It isn’t about Cheney speaking; it’s about Cheney speaking at what is supposed to be a celebration.

    Controversial people with differing opinions SHOULD be invited to campus. Last year my campus hosted both Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton at different times. I didn’t have a problem with either of them, and as much as I revile Dick Cheney, I wouldn’t have a problem with him being here either.
    But I would have a problem if he was speaking at something that was supposed to celebrate an important milestone in my life. That is what commencement is for, and to whatever extent possible the speaker should be completely benign and hopefully inspiring. Cheney doesn’t fit that description. Neither would Hilary Clinton, for that matter.

    I really don’t see what is unclear about that. Sure, some people are honored that the VP is speaking, because they think that is a position that deserves respect, regardless (which is not something I totally agree with… ). But for plenty of people, this is ruining their commencement. That’s sad, and totally avoidable.

    As for those who don’t like the protesters – why? Seems like the protestations makes it look like BYU students are passionate and aware, which isn’t something BYU students are generally known for.

  61. Keep in mind that it’s highly likely Cheney thinks he’s saving lives in the future through his acts

    Cheney had the opportunity to “save lives in the future” and possibly sacrifice his all in the attempt, and he decided he had better things to do at the time. Sacrifice is a wonderful thing when you get to be the one who demands it of others, while sitting comfortably in you bunker of safety.

  62. We had a wonderful experience today protesting. The Associated Press released a wonderful article about it which is now in nearly 50 papers around the world. It’s an exciting thing for BYU!


    “Nearby, Cheney supporters passed out brownies and asked students to sign a letter thanking the vice president. They got 400 names in 40 minutes.”

  64. Not Ophelia says:

    Oh, and Ophelia, umm, last I heard, the same people schedule forum speakers and commencement speakers no?

    Sure. And the devotionals as well, no doubt. But I assume they usually keep things in their proper categories.

    If you really want to show your disdain for the administration picking Cheney for commencement, put your money where your mouth is and drop out, differ, or just simply NOT GO and get your diploma in the mail. Protesting this is a poor ineffective solution in my opinion, that will not change the outcome of this.

    Why would protest only be ‘effective’ if it changes the outcome? Maybe it’s important because it fosters dialogue where none was before. Or makes people think. Or show that yes, there are faithful BYU attending LDS who are Democrats and liberals and anti-war/anti-imperial presidency types.

    If it were my graduation, what would I do? Now, with hindsight and age and experience I would either skip it [easy] or go and when Cheney started his speech, just quietly stand and turn my back to him [which at BYU, would be very, very difficult.] But I graduated from BYU long ago, so none of that [including ‘getting my diploma in the mail’ really applies.

    But. Yet. If my life had gone a bit differently I could have just barely been the parent of a present [non-RM] graduating BYU student. So I had to ask myself, what then? What would I do?

    I’d follow the parenting style I always have with my [now teenaged] kids: let them make their choice, their decisions and support them. Not BYU, not Dick Cheney, not the Board of Trustees, but them. Even if it meant holding my nose and smiling at the B@$# [an unlikely outcome with my kids.]

    But it’s a choice that no parent should have to make. And BYU should know better. I’m a member. I just wonder what the liberal convert students say to their liberal parents?

  65. I don’t have much to add here, except that Not Ophelia has really summed up my opinions about this. Cheney speak at BYU , fine. Cheney speak at BYU commencement, not fine at all.

  66. Al-Jazeera picked up on the BYU students’ protest from the wires.

    My translation:

    American Students Protest Cheney Overseeing Their Graduation

    More than 200 students demonstrated at the campus of Brigham Young University over the invitation of Vice President Dick Cheney to oversee their graduation this year.

    In spite of the opposition of the students to Cheney’s invitation at the Utah college of the University, college officials confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper that they will not withdraw the invitation.

    Regarding the reasons for rejecting Cheney’s overseeing the university diploma awards ceremony, freshman student Heather Marsh said that Cheney engaged in “some disastrous and misleading discussions connecting Iraq and the attacks of September 11, 2001”.

    Some alumni of the university also launched a campaign on the internet, protesting the invitation of Cheney to address the graduates on the 26th of the current month.

  67. Taryn (41),
    Who’s debating the issue? (This is meant as an honest, not a snooty, question. I can understand it as a policy debate—i.e., should universities be permitted to exclude protestors—or as a legal debate—i.e., are universities permitted to exclude protestors. The first debate is interesting, although not terribly relevant to BYU; that’s the kind of debate that should be at the legislature. The second is far less interesting, inasmuch as it probably has a clear answer, but that’s the debate that would interest BYU, or the U of U, or any other college or university in Utah, more. I have to admit that I don’t know the answer for sure, but given the controversy over trading the land near the temple back to the Church in return for an easement, I suspect that Utah allows private property holders to exclude speech, even where the property has a public feel.)

  68. NPR’s Morning Edition did a story covering the protest this morning.

  69. Jimbob, how is “Christ-like” a relative term? Do you know more than one? You probably meant to say that it’s a term subject to individual interpretation.

    You’re pointing out a distinction without a difference Steve.

    I guess I reject your assumption that “important speakers” is the standard for a BYU commencement speech, especially since you directly imply that “important” has little to do with “Christ-like.”

    I am not assuming important speakers is the standard. I would have no issue if they want to invite a hermit from near Heber to come and tell them about how it is hunting squirrel for the Commencement. But what kind of educational experience would that lead to? Hint: a very boring one. (And I don’t buy N.O.’s commencement/forum distinction either.)

    I also think you’re reading me too narrowly when you assume that I’m equating the terms “important” and “unChrist-like.” Your assumption is that I think Christ-like people are not important (if I intimated as much, I did so unintentionally). My point is that lots of interesting people out there with lots of interesting things to say who probably aren’t living Christ-like lives, even if we could agree on what that was, given our “individual interpretations.” Should BYU not hear from these poeple because a few (or even a majority) of us think that they aren’t Christ-like? Keep in mind, many on campus will never hear from a democrat under this logic, because I’m certain a huge chunk of the student body at BYU thinks that the democratic platform is not particularly Christ-like.

  70. jimbob,

    I think there’s a difference in the distinction, even if you don’t. But let’s move on from there.

    Either a given speaker is commensurate with BYU’s stated goals of bringing souls unto Christ, or he is not. The academic merits are, and always have been, a secondary goal at BYU. From BYU’s Mission Statement: “The mission of Brigham Young University–founded, supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.” Education is a tool in a religious quest.

    So to your question, “Should BYU not hear from these poeple because a few (or even a majority) of us think that they aren’t Christ-like?”

    The answer is no, BYU should not hear those people. They already don’t hear from the democrats, precisely for the reasons you state, actually.

    Now, whether I agree with BYU’s overriding religious aims is another concern. I agree with you that it is more interesting to have occasional friction and opposing views. But that is not commensurate with BYU, not as it currently is administered. Hence the fact that BYU already provides a boring academic experience.

  71. Steve,

    You seem to be taking conflicting positions here. Your last point is that not hearing from interesting, if flawed, people leads to a “boring” educational experience, but then you also state in your third paragraph that that’s okay, because BYU has a policy against such things. Is the policy good or bad? And if it’s bad, as you intimate, then why isn’t it a good thing that BYU has apparently disregarded its own policy and invited someone with an opposing view which might cause friction? I would think someone who didn’t like that policy would be overjoyed at this prospect.

  72. Sacrifice is a wonderful thing when you get to be the one who demands it of others, while sitting comfortably in you bunker of safety.

    A complaint that could be made of virtually every important general, regardless of country, and many politicians, in the last two centuries.

  73. #24, #28, on the number of faculty at the demonstratsion: today’s D-News article estimated 50.,1249,660209039,00.html

  74. Steve Evans says:

    jimbob, I’m not taking a conflicting position at all — I am pointing out BYU’s policy and goals. My position is not that of BYU’s; as I stated, I probably would prefer greater academic freedom. But I do think that the current policy is not being administered properly, and that Cheney should have been excluded under it.

  75. So your position is that they should stick to what you consider to be a faulty policy?

  76. I’ve seen quite different estimates on the number of people there. Stirling estimates above “250 …at any one time, with a total count during the 2 hours of 700-800…”

    SLC’s Channel 4, on their 10 pm newscast, last night, estimated 100.

    The D-News article just referred to estimated “more than 300.”

    Just now I counted using fullsize versions of three birds-eye shots taken at different times (one from, two from Stirling, thanks both of you).
    For those three snapshots of time, I counted 290, 310, and 365 people, respectively, exluding people who appeared to be walking by (though some of them may have been leaving or coming to the event).

  77. Steve Evans says:

    jimbob, they can adopt whatever policy they wish – it’s a private institution, and it’s none of my business outside of how it affects my alumni donations. But they should apply the policy with some integrity, and I don’t think they’re doing so.

  78. Can anyone who was there verify these claims about what happened when 1pm came?

  79. However, I would be more than interested to hear what he has to say. It’s not like he is going to come to BYU and preach ‘Hiel Bush’, or ‘Rock on Operation Iraqi Freedom’. He is going to come, and say “if you all work hard, one day you too can be VP”. Is that message so hard to digest?

    I’ll bet you $5 politics enters his speech at some point and it isn’t all “work hard so you can be VP”. He’s not giving the speech because he likes BYU or shares their values, he’s giving the speech for political points.

  80. I think we’re finally to the heart of where you and I disagree, Steve. I’ve always assumed BYU was politically biased, even if it has policies stating it isn’t. It’s a big reason I chose not to go (that and that they wouldn’t let me in). But even working from that assumption, I think that even if they’re not going to invite Harry Reid, I’d still like to hear from Dick Cheney, and think it’s great that the school chose someone controversial. (And the converse would be true as well: if BYU would only invite Harry Reid, and not Dick Cheney, I’d still like to hear from Harry Reid.)

  81. Harry Reid (Mormon, fairly uncontroversial) is not the “converse” of Dick Cheney, jimbob.

  82. Also, jimbob, if I’ve been reading the articles closely enough, I think I’ve learned that BYU did’t “choose” Cheney. Instead, they accepted his request. In a previous year, BYU invited George Bush, he declined. Then, a few weeks ago the administration called the First Presidency’s office and asked if Cheney could speak at BYU’s graduation. The First Presidency said yes (before notifying BYU’s President), then BYU sent an invitiation to Cheney.

  83. Harry Reid (Mormon, fairly uncontroversial) is not the “converse” of Dick Cheney, jimbob.

    I didn’t say he was, nor does my point depend on that being true (you may want to reread my comment). The term “converse” in my post applies to inverting the first example I gave, not that Reid and Cheney are polar opposites.

  84. XXVI,

    I don’t think that does much to the analysis. Whether they invited him or he inquired and the FP acquiesced doesn’t seem make much of a difference to the demonstrations or to whether having him speak is a good thing. I assume at that level lots of things get done by someone’s people contacting other peoples’ people.

  85. Steve Evans says:

    jimbob, I only think controversial figures are worthwhile if the conversation is open to all sides, and it’s clearly not at BYU. It’s still not academic freedom when only one party is at the podium, no matter how controversial Cheney is.

  86. But Steve, even if only figures from the political right were invited (which isn’t the case, but there would seem to be a disproportinate number of figures from the right), there can still be academic freedom if there is dialogue on campus about the ideas raised by the speaker or about the ideas he/she represents.

    Here, one of the importances of the benign protest that just occurred is that it (with the TV and newspaper interviews, and the op-ed pieces established that this type of dialogue can occur on campus without censure(and in fact, next week, a discussion of Cheney’s policies will be held in the Varsity Theater).

    Actually, it is probably too soon to say this occured “without censure.” I doubt there would be any ramifications for criticizing Cheney, but that will be played out in the years to come as hiring and promotion decisions are made.

  87. Joshua Ligairi says:


    Bryan Young, the guy that wrote the blog that you are referring to was there filming when it happened. He got some footage and several student interviews minutes after the event. I was also there filming as were many BYU students. There was also a still photographer present. Filming was discouraged by security as the event was officially over, but we do have some documentation. We’ve all liscenced our footage to be edited into a news clip that will be publically availible very soon.

  88. Steve Evans says:

    XXVI, you’re right that there is still freedom to talk about Cheney on campus; in that respect there is some individual freedom of speech. But that doesn’t equate to academic freedom (or, more precisely, political neutrality) from an institutional point of view.

  89. …or, more precisely, political neutrality…

    Is there any institution of higher learning in America that does this, really? There’s a perception that your crticisms of BYU’s political myopia apply to most universities, or at least their faculties, except that the result is the shunning of conservative point of veiw. See Ivan Wolfe’s recent post, at Millennial Star, for example:

    And that’s at a school in a predominately red state.

    My law school didn’t even try; the only plausibly conservative group on the campus was the Federalist society, and word has it they had to offer a bribe before any professor would agree to be the supervising faculty.

  90. Steve Evans says:

    jimbob, I’m aware of Ivan’s post, and of the liberal bias in the U.S. university system generally — however, most universities aren’t run by churches with openly stated policies of political neutrality.

  91. btw, I’m getting really tired of this conversation.

  92. um, yeah.

  93. So you’re okay with colleges discriminating based on viewpoint, so long as they don’t say they won’t beforehand? That is, this is all about truth in advertising to you? If so, I think you’re focusing on a relatively minor issue at the expense of the major underlying issues we’ve been discussing.

  94. jimbob, frankly I’m not sure what on earth you’re talking about. Checking out now…

  95. …part of it has to do with my inability to take anyone with the handle “jimbob” seriously.

  96. …part of it has to do with my inability to take anyone with the handle “jimbob” seriously.

    Wow. You got kind of ugly there, Steve. If you don’t want to have the conversation, then don’t have the conversation. But you kept this going as long as I did, largely without my provocation. And to finish it off with blatant ad hominem seems a bit beneath you.

  97. Steve Evans says:

    I got kind of ugly? My mother’s been saying that for decades.

    dude, don’t take mockery of your handle personally. That’s no ad hominem argument, it’s just mockery for its own sake of something that ought to be totally irrelevant to you. Unless your real name is actually Jim Bob, in which case, you have my sympathies.

  98. A Cheney Supporter says:

    A Soft Answer:

    Thank you for the opportunity to support this petition. It is a counter to the shrill voices we have heard here recently.

  99. Get lost, you anonymous coward. You come on our site and piss in our pool? Ridiculous. It’s more about calling our voices “shrill” than anything else. It takes gall for someone to anonymously call you that on your own site. I couldn’t care less about the Cheney petition.

    (how’s that for a shrill voice? Better?)

  100. Stirling (#13) and others may be interested to know of something in common between Spiro Agnew and Dick Cheney. “Spiro Agnew” can be anagrammed to spell “grow a penis.”

  101. Kevin (102),
    Should Dave Barry get some credit for your knowing that? (He’s how I know that. And, sadly, the three things I know about Spiro Agnew are (1) He was Nixon’s VP, (2) he spoke once at BYU, and (3) the letters in his name also spell “grow a penis.”)

  102. A Cheney Supporter says:

    Steve, much better. Thank you.

  103. There are in fact actual, real-world connections between Agnew and Cheney via Nixon. Cheney, after all, was a figure in the Nixon administration

  104. Thanks, Stirling. As I recall, the only event that remotely resembled a protest during my brief stint at BYU was a gathering to hear witnesses report on the June 4th Tiananmen Square Massacre. Of course, the event mattered not a whit to the regime in Beijing. None of us expected it would. But, it mattered to those who survived to pass along the stories of bravery, for them to see that BYU students would take the time to stop and learn and maybe feel a little solidarity.

    I feel sorry for any BYU student who wouldn’t avail themselves of this tremendous opportunity to show displeasure with this hazardous administration. You’re only a student once. Soon you’ll be busy with family and career and these chances will not come back around. Err on the side of flexing your rights. Anyone who’d call you shrill for taking Cheney to task is a ninny.

  105. Julie M. Smith says:

    Someone should write an article on how “shrill” is Mormon code for “a political position I don’t like” and someone is thought to have power to end the conversation.

  106. Steve Evans says:

    Sometimes, Julie, I heart you to death.

  107. Seen at BYU Democrats :

    Enter to learn. Go forth to abolish habeus corpus.

    Let us oft speak kind words to each other – even to Senator Leahy

    I don’t know, seemed like a pretty sharp bunch of kids, hope there’s a lot more like them, and that they’ll all be turning out for Commencement …

  108. just a thought … has linked to BCC in appreciation of your sit-in coverage

    would BCC or perhaps another site in the bloggernacle be interested in collecting submissions for messages to be used on signs at future Cheney protests?

    if there’s going to be national coverage, surely there are some great wits around these parts who could help with suggestions on slogans for the kids signs …

  109. Here’s a sign for a concept that seemed to be missing among the signs:

    Bush-Cheney: “Secret comibinations R-US.”

  110. Darrell Wyatt says:

    per #106
    Ahh. All of this brings me back to the olden days when, as a college student (not BYU), I participated in numerous protests against the war in Vietnam, sit-ins, wore black arm bands on the appointed day, etc. I was delighted about how effectively public sentiment was turned against the war and how it forced the US withdrawl. Little did I understand what the consequences would be when the US capitulated. Killing Fields anyone? I wonder what part my participation played in the millions of deaths that followed–beyond infinitesimal, I know, but I still wonder. I only hope history is not repeated here.

    Certianly, “show your displeasure.” Do your college thing. I applaud you for it. Just know that everything is not as simple as it seems to be and there are consequences to even small acts beyond what you imagine .

  111. Steve Evans says:

    Thanks, Darth Wyatt, er, I mean, A Cheney Supporter.

  112. Steve Evans says:

    Chino, I don’t think so. BCC is a blog for liberal mormons, I suppose, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to a given political affiliation.

  113. Geez, Darrell, should I be afraid to leave the house now? If I decide to take that new job, might I somehow be strengthening the junta’s hand in Myanmar? Nevermind the new job’s in Des Moines, I gotta keep in mind that all my small acts lead to unimaginable – and potentially genocidal – consequences …

    Do you see any situation where a protest against anything might be of some positive value? As far as I can tell, in your world, we should condemn the Boston Tea Party because it somehow led to the use of Agent Orange in Indochina.

  114. Steve,

    I understand and suppose you’re right.

    Still, you see how much untapped potential is out there …

    XXVI’s Bush-Cheney: “Secret comibinations R-US.” incorporates exactly the kind of Mormon cultural reference that brings a smile to my face, as I suppose it would to others …

  115. XXVI – You’ve given my life new purpose, you WILL see that sign come Commencement, cheers!

  116. Latter-day Guy says:

    Wow, Steve, I love how you totally dismissed a thoughtful point with mockery!

    Chino, way to twist those words man!

    Darrell wasn’t saying never to protest, but to consider that your actions in the political sphere may have far-reaching and surprising consequences. He was saying to really examine the issues carefully, because your decisions matter.

    Hasn’t this blog defended the protest as a significant act? Didn’t it get fairly good press coverage? Now are we saying that it will be of no effect? Or just that it’s impossible for passionate BYU Deomocrats’ actions to have any negative consequences?

  117. What exactly are Steve and jimbob arguing about? I’ve read through it, and I confess, I don’t really get it.

  118. “Political Dialogue. Isn’t it about time?”

    That was the text of one of the signs. Because I agree with the sentiment, I enjoyed the event.

    However, I think I’m of the opinion that the day when Cheney is actually speaking on campus, the better path to political dialogue is to listen to what he has to say, and then separately respond (in various places) instead of trying to make a point at the commencement itself.

  119. Latter-Day Guy, that’s not quite what Darrell said. First, he implied that the Khmer Rouge and the killing fields were the result of U.S. “capitulation” in Vietnam. That’s sketchy history AT BEST. Second, he implies that protesting against Dick Cheney may have a similar effect as the massive unified protest against the Vietnam war, which is patently ridiculous. Underlying all of his remarks is a thinly veiled ominous tone (not to mention condescension: “Do your college thing”?? Puhleeze).

    So yes, I dismissed him with brief mockery. That’s all he deserved. It was far from thoughtful.

    Seth, ultimately I couldn’t understand either.

    Closing the thread now — move along and get lives, folks.

  120. Steve, If you’ve posted 18 times on one thread, aren’t you estopped from telling others “move along and get a life?” :)

    It also seems odd to close the thread, but since I’m a guest here, I’ll acquiesce.


  1. […] Sterling over at BCC has also posted on the protest. As I find others, I will link to them. The national press has also extensively covered the protests, which I will link to below as I find them. I congratulate the students and faculty at BYU who were responsible for planning and executing a well organized protest. Great Job! […]

  2. […] Responding to the BYU Cheney protest, BYU College Republicans have organized their own petition in support of Cheney’s appearance and held a counter-protest Wednesday. I signed the pro-Cheney petition but I did think the “Cheney and Voldemort 2008″ sign mentioned in the SL Trib article was funny. BCC has some photos of the protest. […]

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