BYU-Idaho decides to dissolve student political groups

BYU-Idaho, in an attempt to maintain political neutrality, has decided to dissolve student political groups for the Republican and Democrat parties.  You can read more here.  If you would like some history on the on-and-off formation and dissolution of these groups, plus some on-campus reaction, I can recommend this article here.

It seems pretty clear that the BYU campus were concerned about the perception that the Idaho campus is heavily Republican.  The college Democrats were not prospering.  And the Church is very concerned about remaining politically neutral, but dissolving the student groups seems to me, at first glance, to be a huge mistake.

Here’s why.

1)BYU Provo and BYU Hawaii still have student political groups.  Why not in Rexburg?

2)Everybody in the world is concerned about student political apathy.  On-campus political groups directly address that and promote interest in politics, which the Church, by the way, encourages from the pulpit  during every election cycle.  Dissolving student political groups sends exactly the wrong message to young people, it seems to me.

3)Nearly every other campus in the country is heavily leftist or Democratic.  What’s wrong with having a small group that leans the other way politically?  The dissolution of these groups seems to send exactly the wrong message to young people:  it’s OK to be politically active if you are left-of-center but it’s not OK if you dare to be right-of-center.

Having said all this, I want to make it very clear:  the Church’s political neutrality policy is sacred to me personally, and I support it completely.   When people discuss politics at Church, the Spirit seems to escape from the room.  Church and politics should not mix.

But there is nothing wrong with attending a political meeting during the week completely separate from your Church meetings.  And, in fact, the Church heavily promotes people being involved with their local communities and in politics.   I cannot see why the same policy cannot apply at BYU-Idaho — political groups should be able to meet and organize, but separate from other student activities.

Perhaps I am missing something.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

20 thoughts on “BYU-Idaho decides to dissolve student political groups

  1. heh, are we sure the reason they decided to remove all political parties isn’t because the Democratic party was gaining at BYU-I, and BYU-I was getting embarrassed by the decline in the Republican party? So they said, “oh yeah, instead of letting those commie leftist socialists infect our precious place, we’ll just remove all political parties.” ;)

    Either way, it is simply silly. Not that I would have sent my daughter to BYU-I, but here’s another reason to convince her (she’s only 3 now) to not even bother considering a BYU affiliated school. (Currently we’re asking her “Ava, Harvard or Wellesley?” She picks Wellesley each time. :)

  2. Dan, Well shoot! You figured it out. ;-)

    Geoff, we had better tell BYU-I that Dan is on to their scheme. And perhaps we should find a way to nullify the voter registration cards for all those commie leftist socialists attending BYU-I? :-)

  3. This makes no sense to me. In what way does the existence of student groups “endanger BYU-I’s political neutrality”? That is like saying that the chess club endangers BYU-I’s no smart people policy. Clearly, the latter policy is in full effect despite any idenpendent student organizing.

    I agree with Geoff here that having active political discussions is probably one the the MOST important pieces of a college education, and this is one huge step away from that.

  4. As the faculty advisor for the BYU-Idaho College Democrats (until this decision at least), I can testify that it was not because the College Dems were not prospering. We were, of course smaller than the CRs, but still we were a healthy little academic society.

  5. Chris H, can you offer any theories as to what the heck the administration of BYU-Idaho is thinking? Still don’t get it.

  6. I can”t be sure. For the most part, the administration did not want to be bothered by us. It was less about avoiding partisanship and more about avoiding any appearance of controversy. The administration is pretty apolitical and they prefer thar the university be that way as well. Geoff, I do not think there is really much of an explanation.

  7. If the college political groups have any real staying power, they will reorganize off campus. I don’t know about the College Democrats, but surely there ought to be enough College Republicans at BYU-I to survive as an organization without the use of campus facilities.

  8. Mark,

    I think you may be right (as weird as that sounds). I think that an off campus Democrat society of some sort, involving faculty and students, would be fun.

  9. Like Chris H., I was heavily involved in the College Dems before I graduated in April. Here’s my take on it.

    1. Shame on BYU-Idaho. Like Geoff said, political apathy among students is not only a problem, it’s getting worse with every passing generation. However, BYU-Idaho has an even worse problem than political apathy: Political one-liners. Many will watch the news or listen to the radio, gleam one point out of an entire complex issue, then bring that to any discussion (among friends or in classes) as their source of knowledge. President Obama’s birth certificate was one that made me want to claw my eyes out.

    2. While the College Repubs vastly outweigh the College Dems, this speaks more to the administration than it does the associations. Again, both BYU and BYU Hawaii have political groups. Yet in my years of schooling at BYU-Idaho, nobody within the administration wanted any sort of controversy or conflict, as if it was a bad thing. Could you imagine if the Second Continental Congress had no conflict when it came to signing the Declaration of Independence?

    3. I am a politically moderate leaning individual, and made a conscious choice to be a part of the College Democrats because of the overwhelming Republican influence in Rexburg, especially at BYU-Idaho. There needed to be a healthy exchange of ideas, especially for those who leaned left. I am very dissapointed in the administration for dissolving those groups.

    4. BYU-Idaho isn’t a bad school. I loved all my years there. But decisions like this from the current administration (because this isn’t the first) make me wonder what effect it will have on future admissions…

  10. I have attended BYU-Idaho, but having lived in neighborhoods in Provo that were so Repub… Hawkish that when I put up a Quaker “War Is Not The Answer” sign in my yard, it would disappear. My garbage once, taken by a landlord, etc. Hey, that’s my personal property!

    PS—Anyone in Utah County that wants a sign can contact me for a sign. They are free, but a donation is definitely welcome. Email me at:

    todd d robbins at gmail dot com

    (Sorry, not meaning to capitalize in the traditional sense, on my affiliation)

  11. Tod, in addition to being a self-promotion, your comment is completely off-topic. You get one warning: future comments like this will be deleted.

  12. Before my mission, I was in the College Republicans at Ricks. I even participated in a debate between the College Repubs and the Dems (they settled on me because Dan Quayle was going to be in Idaho Falls that same time, and I was one of the only two members not going – there’s even a picture of me at the debate in some old Ricks College newspaper, the Scroll).

    However, I have to say that the College Republicans helped drive me out of the party. I even tried the College Democrats, just to see, but found them just as off-putting. Rabid partisan sniping (which was all either club – at the time – seemed interested in doing) is not something I enjoy.

    So while I vote and try to be somewhat politically involved, College groups soured me on both political parties.

  13. Ivan,

    I was a College Republican at Ricks as well (Aug 94 to April 95 and then Jan 98 to Aug 98). I was vice-president after my mission. Long story.

    Sure, these clubs are not always the ideal of political discourse, but what better place to learn about this that at a university.

  14. Chris, it’s interesting to see you and I took opposite political journeys. I was a leftist during my college days (early 1980s) and gradually became more conservative in the 1990s. I voted for Clinton both times. The 2000 election was literally a coin flip for me because I perceived both Gore and Bush as moderates. It was not until after 9/11 and the advent of gay marriage that I became a conservative. Interesting to see somebody whose opinions I respect take an opposite path.

  15. Pingback: BYU-Idaho College Democrats-in-Exile | Faith-Promoting Rumor

  16. Campus political parties formed an invaluable aspect of the historical identity of Brigham Young University-Idaho since 1954 until they were disbanded Winter Semester 2009. Despite this 55 year long stretch of relatively uninterrupted tradition, “[t]he university explains that no event prompted this change in policy”. Leaders of both Republican and Democrat student political organizations were not given advanced notice of the ban.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/byu-idaho-restore-campus-political-parties

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