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PROVO — Following several comments from the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the faith’s flagship educational institution has formed an eight-member committee to “examine issues of race and inequality” on campus and in its community.
BYU announced the formation of the committee Wednesday, adding that it will meet together for the first time this week.
The committee includes members from various parts of campus, including multicultural student services, the academic vice president’s office and athletics.
“We likewise call on government, business, and educational leaders at every level to review processes, laws, and organizational attitudes regarding racism and root them out once and for all,” church President Russell M. Nelson wrote during a recent op-ed in conjunction with the NAACP published on Medium. “It is past time for every one of us to elevate our conversations above divisive and polarizing rhetoric. Treating others with respect matters. Treating each other as sons and daughters of God matters.”
The newly appointed committee was requested by BYU President Kevin Worthen and comprised under the direction of academic vice president Shane Reese, who also sits on the committee. It also includes:
- Moises Aguirre, multicultural student services
- Ryan Gabriel, department of sociology
- Lita Little Giddins, college of family, home and social science
- Vern Heperi, office of student success and inclusion
- Carl Hernandez III, J. Reuben Clark law school
- Jon McBride, university communications
- Stephani Perkins, assistant coach, women’s track and field
The committee will be tasked with reaching out and listening to BYU campus officials and the community to address concerns regarding racial inequality. President Nelson also encouraged all to foster faith in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man; foster a fundamental respect for the human dignity of every human soul, regardless of their color, creed or cause; and work tirelessly to build bridges of understanding rather than creating walls of segregation.
Worthen also released a message condemning racism and inequality a few days before President Nelson’s op-ed, which followed a statement calling on "any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent!"
“With the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others over the years, and the confluence of recent events, important conversations are happening throughout the nation, including at BYU,” Worthen said.
“We extend our love and concern to all members of our university community who are impacted by these events.
“We know there is work to do, on campus and throughout the nation, for us to better come together, to address injustice and to truly love one another. It will take sustained effort from all of us to make things better. We remain committed to doing that. We can do that in a unique way at BYU because of our understanding of the important truth that each of us are children of heavenly parents.
“BYU stands firmly against racism and violence in any form and is committed to promoting a culture of safety, kindness, respect and love.
“As we continue to move forward together, let us do so with charity. Let us be kind. Let us respect others. Let us listen. Let us follow the example of Jesus Christ.”
Earlier this week, a group of former and current BYU students began a petition to change the name of the university’s Abraham O. Smoot Administration Building because of the Utah pioneer’s link to slavery. The university's announcement of the committee did not mention the petition, but others on popular petition website change.org have also called for the university to be renamed from Brigham Young.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly spelled Stephani Perkins' name as "Stephanie." This has been corrected.
Editor's Note: Deseret Digital Media, Inc., the operator of KSL.com, is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.