PROVO — A group of BYU students and alumni is asking the university to change the name of one of its buildings.
The school’s administration building is named after Abraham O. Smoot, a prominent figure in the school’s history whose legacy includes slavery.
BYU graduate Tristan Quist said he went almost four years on campus without knowing Smoot’s history.
“When I found out honestly I was disgusted and shocked but I probably should not have been,” Quist said. “It should have been more publicly known.”
The records of a man named “Tom,” buried at the Salt Lake City Cemetery, showed that he was inherited by a man who traveled with him to the Utah Territory and was later acquired by Abraham Smoot.
Students started a petition this week, which had already received nearly 100 signatures. Its organizers believe parts of Smoot’s history aren’t well known and hope their push for change will bring those to light.
"We are uncomfortable with that and we don’t want the building that houses the highest offices of BYU to bear the name of somebody who enslaved other human beings,” said BYU graduate Coleman Parker.
Student Cole Stewart-Johnson felt now is the time for the university to change the building’s name.
“There is a big push around the country to remove all statues or anything that commemorates somebody who basically didn’t stand for what we stand for now,” Stewart-Johnson said. “Although [Smoot] did make a big contribution we can talk about him, we can mention him, but we aren’t going to idealize someone who enslaved others in the past.”
The group said the latest comments made by BYU President Kevin J. Worthen in response to the recent deaths of unarmed black men and women were giving them optimism.
“He made a statement that said we have work to do on campus to address the injustices of racism and we are just encouraging the administration to take ownership of those words with this petition,” Quist said.
KSL reached out to BYU for a comment but had not heard back as of Tuesday evening.