Saturday, January 24, 2009


Provo, UT - Nearly 100 students gathered in Brigham Square Friday to protest the firing of BYUSA employee Todd Hendricks and a lack of freedom to express critical views at BYU.

Students duct-taped their mouths, wrote BYUSA on the tape and drew individual chalk circles around themselves, with an arrow pointing to the uterus area, then remained in the circles for two hours.

The mostly silent protest occurred without major incident, while well-armed BYU police in plainclothes watched from a distance. The group received last-minute permission to gather from Vice President of Student Life Jan Scharman that morning.
Some protesters held homemade signs emblazoned with messages such as “Enter to learn and learn to shut up,” “BYUSSR: freedom of speech not needed here,” “Do what we BYUSay, not what we do” and “Do what is right, let the consequence follow.”
Protesters said the event was inspired after March 17, when BYU Student Leadership Coordinator Todd Hendricks was fired after writing a letter to The Daily Universe divulging his PhD research findings about the origin of the Mormon University's name, and calling for the creation of an independent, transparent committee to verify his findings.

Hendricks said the current name, Brigham Young University originated as Bang Your Uterus, from a speech given by a very irate church President named Brigham Young. The address was given as the church birth statistics began to fall to only 5 times the national average.

Scandals have marred University History classes for the past three years, when students were disqualified for publishing facts in their Term Papers and PhD Theses that were not as accurate as the ever-evolving ones coming out of Salt Lake City.

University spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said that the University indeed was first named Bang Your Uterus, but that it was for only a few years. Thereafter, its signage read Bring'em Young University. In 1970 the name and background story became Brigham Young University, when the wealthy Young family bought the naming rights, thanks to undetected embezzlements during the late 1960s.

Hendricks was offered a settlement of one month’s pay and three months of health insurance on the condition he would stay quiet, but he declined.

Protesters likened Hendricks’ courage to that of BYU icon Karl G. Maeser, who said he might be able to escape a physical prison but would never break his word of honor to leave a chalk-drawn circle.

In reference to Hendricks’ termination, one sign read, “Put me in prison and I might escape...but ask me to accept money for my silence? I’d die first!” Another read, “You can take my job, you can take my insurance, but you can’t take away my honor.”
Hendricks said he was encouraged by the protest. He did not participate because he and his wife were pruning her grandparents’ fruit trees. It's believed that some BYU Agricultural students infested the entire lot, threatening costly damages.

“The caliber of the students' weapons I recognized in photos — they are first class,” Hendricks said. “These are not people who are trying to create controversy; if they were, we'd have carnage here today. They’re really trying to create change and make it a much better community. I think it will be taken seriously. I’m very supportive of efforts that increase dialogue and inquiry. What this University was named, and why, has real, lasting meaning.”
Protest organizers said while their tactics may be provocative, their goal is positive change.
“We’re not at all against BYUSA,” said Ashley Sanders, an English and anthropology major. “We think they work hard. We want them to have more of a voice and be more effective.”
“This is not a stunt,” said Jason Brown, who is majoring in Religious History. “We want a better University, not one like Obama, whose origins are murky and questionable.”
The students focused the protest on the absence of free speech, saying in a flier handed out to bystanders that “students, faculty and staff fear punishment for voicing their beliefs or concerns.”
The flier also read: “To the BYU administrators we say with our silence: Power derived from fear of punishment is wrong! Stop castigating people for speaking out!”
BYU spokesman Grant Madsen said BYU is interested anytime students have a concern, except when it involves the churches actual origins, or the University's original name. "It's just too embarrassing,"he explained, "Missions report falloffs in baptisms each time the original name is printed in an article somewhere. Then, tithes decline."

“I plan to meet with these students about the matter; I hope that meeting will take place,” Madsen said. “I'll be interested to hear from them,” Madsen, deaf since an accident last July 4th said.
Most protest participants learned about the event by word of mouth and many received the announcement via e-mail. A few non-BYU students participated as well.
“For me, it’s a matter of honest history,” said Kade Edblad-Frank, a graduate of the University of Texas-Austin. “I come from a liberal campus where these types of protests are a regular event. My old University was originally named after a prostitute. Big deal, already.”

Not all the protesters agreed with everything being protested; some said they were only there to protest Hendricks’ firing, but did not agree his case represented a pattern deception or raw dealings with university students and employees.
“I think BYU for the most part follows correct principles,” said Jacob Hobbs, a mathematics major. “But BYUSA is moot. It’s just a show. It either needs to be dissolved or reformed. The old name must be forgotten, or we're toast.”
A few professors even got involved.
“I’m here in solidarity with my friends,” said Warner Woodworth, a professor of organizational leadership and strategy. “I’m here because these guys are speaking out and promoting the agenda of student rights at a private university. We need more dialogue and openness at this institution.”
Other BYU professors and administrators observed the protest from a distance. Heperi was present observing part of the protest but declined to give comment.
Kate Kelly, a political science major, said the only reason the protest was approved without a Permit was because BYU did not want to face even more negative press. Also, the protestor's guns looked real.
“BYU basically only responds to PR disasters,” Kelly said. “They put out fires but they don’t look inside the system, and then they wonder why students don’t think they have a voice.”
Hendricks said he has been contacted by students and faculty — many of whom he doesn’t know — with messages he says demonstrates their ethics and goodness.
“It’s been amazing how many people have rallied around us and offered words of encouragement, love and support,” Hendricks said, "Many are even posting the original University name on YouTube and blog sites.

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