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BYU removed LGBTQ resource pamphlets from welcome bags for new students


Brigham Young University removed brochures containing off-campus resources for LGBTQ students from welcome bags for freshmen at the end of August.

Created by RaYnbow Collective, a nonprofit organization that BYU founder and student Maddison Tenney says focuses on gay student education and alliance, the brochures contained information about weekly and monthly events available to LGBTQ students as well as listings of area organizations that could provide therapy, safe housing, mentorship and more. The RaYnbow collective is not officially affiliated with the university.

Brochures with resource information for LGBTQ students have been removed from welcome bags for new students.Rainbow Collective

Tenney, who is gay, said she wanted to create the pamphlets because she remembers the loneliness she felt as a freshman at the university, which belongs to the Church of Jesus- Christ of Latter Day Saints. At the University of Provo, Utah, located about 45 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, students are prohibited by university rules from dating or showing signs of affection towards members of the same sex. . Violation of these rules exposes students to the risk of being unenrolled.

“I remember sitting in my white dorm with these cement walls and falling apart,” Tenney said. “I didn’t know anyone who was like me, who wanted to be faithful and embrace the fullness of themselves.”

She remembers seeing a tube of lip balm, an item that was in her freshman bag, and thinking that she could have used a lot more than lip balm to get through this time in her life.

RaYnbow Collective worked with BYU’s student newspaper, Daily Universe, which prepares the welcome bags, to submit the brochures. Tenney said she paid the $200 fee, signed a contract with the Daily Universe, and dropped off 5,000 brochures on August 12. The pamphlets, she said, were “very vanilla, very much in line with the teachings of the church.”

“We went out of our way to make sure it was kosher and compliant with the policy,” she said, adding that the pamphlets were created in conjunction with other LGBTQ organizations in the area. “We didn’t hear anything more, ‘That sounds awesome.'”

Then, on August 23, Tenney received an Instagram message from a friend, who is also a resident assistant, telling her that she had been told to go to each room where the welcome bags were placed and get the brochures out. of the RaYnbow collective, Tenney said. .

After contacting various BYU departments to find out who was giving the order to remove the bags, Tenney said, the Office of Student Life told him the items were against the church and they took the decision to withdraw them.

When asked by TODAY.com why the brochures were removed, BYU said in an emailed statement Friday that the university “wants our students and employees to use our new home office as their primary resource. in these endeavors”.

“The decision to remove the documents from Student Life was based on the university’s commitment to provide support through the Office of Membership and our advisory services and not to allow outside entities to imply university affiliation or endorsement,” the statement continued.

BYU announced the creation of the Office of Membership in August 2021, stating that it would “primarily focus on coordinating and improving membership services and efforts on campus.” But the office didn’t have a physical location until Monday, according to Tenney.

“It’s hard to say what they’re going to do,” Tenney said of the newly formed office.

BYU did not respond to a question about the resources the Membership Office provides to LGBTQ students.

The announcement of the new office came the same week that church leader Jeffrey R. Holland came to the Utah campus and spoke about championing the doctrine of family and marriage as a union of a man and a woman.

Tenney said that since that speech, she had received numerous violent threats and had to remove her contact information from BYU’s directory. While she hoped the new Membership Office would be successful in providing support to marginalized students, she said such support has yet to be seen.

This article first appeared on TODAY.com.

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