Student leaders oppose BYU joining Big 12

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Brigham Young University’s bid to join the Big 12 Conference has found a new opponent in Kansas State’s Student Governing Association.

Three SGA leaders told the Collegian Monday they will consider writing a resolution opposing BYU’s possible acceptance into the Big 12 because of the university’s student Honor Code. The Honor Code bans homosexual behavior:

“Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”

The issue came to the forefront Wednesday when Iowa State University’s student government passed a resolution opposed to BYU joining the Big 12.

The University of Texas Student Government has also considered similar legislation, according to the Daily Texan, the university’s student newspaper.

Trenton Kennedy, student body vice president and junior in entrepreneurship, said the Honor Code at BYU is not inclusive, and that is reason enough to exclude BYU from the Big 12.

“When you’re in the Big 12, you’re expecting a standard of inclusion and a standard of acceptance and welcoming when we know that my fellow students, as student-athletes, are going to be traveling to those schools to participate in athletic events and competitions,” Kennedy said. “So I believe that it should be an acceptable standard to know that my fellow students are going to go to an accepting and inclusive atmosphere when they travel for games.”

BYU is a private, religious university, owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Baylor and TCU are both private, religious institutions in the Big 12. Neither of their student honor codes explicitly say that homosexuality is a violation of their code but Baylor’s does mention that students are not allowed to participate in LGBT advocacy organizations.

Supporting change

Jessica Van Ranken, student body president and senior in political science, said SGA will work on drafting a resolution this week, but she wants to talk with other campus organizations first to get their input.

“We have plans to look into writing one this week,” Van Ranken said. “We’re reaching out to different areas on campus that would be interested in the fact that we’re doing that.”

Those include, but are not limited to, K-State Athletics and the Office of the President. The Big 12 university presidents will be the ones voting on conference expansion sometime this fall.

“I think the message (the resolution) would send is a message that these institutions that have passed these resolutions have students on those campuses who feel strongly about sending their students to an inclusive environment, about fostering an inclusive and an accepting community, both at their own institution and in the conference which they are a part of,” Van Ranken said.

“I think it sends a message of commitment on behalf of our students to the Big 12 in that we want to see a Big 12 that is inclusive and held to a higher standard and that the Big 12 is an organization that matters to us,” Kennedy said.

Van Ranken said the goal of a resolution would not be to keep BYU out of the Big 12, but to express support for a change in the Honor Code.

“The goal of the resolution would likely be to express that the students at Kansas State would support a change in BYU’s Honor Code,” Van Ranken said. “Knowing that we can’t, as we are not students there and we are not necessarily stakeholders at their university, we can’t force a change at that level, but saying that we would support a change at that level.”

“If that change were to occur, we would be significantly more supportive of them joining the Big 12 Conference that we are a part of,” Van Ranken said.

The Collegian requested comment from student leaders at both BYU and Iowa State but did not receive any responses by publication deadline. If either respond, the story will be updated online.

BYU released a statement in response to the ISU resolution, standing by their honor code while also expressing a message of inclusiveness:

“BYU welcomes as full members of the university community all whose conduct meets university standards. We are very clear and open about our honor code, which all students understand and commit to when they apply for admission. One’s stated sexual orientation is not an issue.”

Drafting a resolution

Kennedy said he had reached out to a friend who attends BYU but has not heard back yet. Van Ranken said the thoughts of students at BYU would provide context on the Honor Code, but the resolution would be written from a K-State point of view.

“The resolution would be representative of what students at Kansas State think and what student Senate thinks because they would be the individuals voting on the resolution,” Van Ranken said. “This resolution is about Kansas State students and what they want from the Big 12 Conference.”

While a resolution would not have any binding power over the Big 12’s expansion decision, Kennedy said it can still have an effect.

“A resolution could be powerful because it would be a large group of students who represent their peers, and so it would hopefully be representative of K-State,” Kennedy said. “While it may not have the president of the university’s signature, it’s a mandate from students’ voices that this is how we feel about something.”

Jack Ayres, speaker of the SGA Senate and senior in chemical engineering, said the vote on a resolution would represent the stance of the students on the issue.

“(A resolution) does have to be voted on by the Senate,” Ayres said. “So there is a vote count that would go into there, which could take into account if it wasn’t a unanimous approval. It could represent a little bit of a metric on just where K-State lies on the issue.”

Iowa State’s resolution was passed 21-6.

“I think the bottom line (is) using our voice as much as we can and in the biggest way to make sure the Big 12 is inclusive and that our students will always be a part of an inclusive organization,” Kennedy said.

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Jason Tidd
Jason Tidd graduated from Kansas State University's Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2017. He was the spring 2017 editor-in-chief, fall 2016 news editor and spring 2016 assistant news editor. While at K-State, Jason played baritone in the Pride of Wildcat Land marching band.