BYU adds Native American law professor to committee on racial equality and diversity

BYU adds Native American law professor to committee on racial equality and diversity

(BYU Photo, File)

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PROVO — BYU’s eight-member committee tasked with improving racial equality on campus and in the local community has grown to nine members.

Michalyn Steele, a professor in the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, has been added to the committee, BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins confirmed to

The committee was formed to "examine issues of race and inequality" on campus and in the community; Steele’s appointment comes after calls for Native American representation on the committee. A member of the Seneca Nation of Indians of New York, Steele joined the BYU law school faculty as an associate professor in 2014.

"More information will be forthcoming about the committee and its goals," Jenkins added.

Farina King, a member of the BYU Native American alumni, wrote on a petition that originally called for Native American representation on the committee that BYU president Kevin Worthen had sent an email to alumni group members advising them of Steele’s inclusion on June 26.

"Our hearts and voices were heard," King wrote in updating the petition, which had 937 signatures. "Thank you, President Worthen.

"I have been touched by all the support and coming together to advocate for Native American representation in higher education. I am so happy that university administrators and the community are listening. I wish all the best for this committee."

Steele’s professional career included work at a Washington D.C.-area law firm that specialized in representation of native tribes and as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division. She was also a counselor to Larry Echo Hawk, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, at the U.S. Department of Interior.

Steele received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in humanities from BYU, with an emphasis in English literature and Native American studies.

She joins the previously announced eight-member committee, which 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 report to both Worthen and academic vice president Shane Reese — who also sits on the committee — while "other members of the BYU community will be utilized in assisting in this work," the university said in an announcement earlier this summer.

"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," Worthen said in a statement in June. "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."

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has covered BYU for since 2015, while also mixing in prep sports, education, and anything else his editors assign him to do.


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