Stugov to yet again oppose Big 12 inclusion of BYU after implementing discriminatory policy


The Student Government meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Campanile room at the Memorial Union.

Charles Klepps

The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma shocked the collegiate world when they elected to leave the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Instantly, discussions began over whether or not the Big 12 would even exist once they departed. 

As a solution, the Big 12 elected to add four new schools: Brigham Young University (BYU), University of Houston, University of Central Florida (UCF) and University of Cincinnati.

While the decision to expand will have positive financial impacts for the Big 12, members of the Iowa State Student Government have voiced their opposition of the lack of student input on the decision.  

The Student Government also passed a resolution in 2016 opposing the inclusion of Brigham Young University based on their implementation of “discriminatory policy,” according to previous reporting from the Iowa State Daily.

United Residence Off-Campus Senator Daniel Hayes, senior majoring in political science, began working on a resolution that would be sent to Iowa State administration as well as other student governments around the Big 12. 

Hayes said his biggest concern is not about which universities were added, but instead, the process not involving student input whatsoever. 

“Students are the focus of the University, and you’d like to be treated like it,” Hayes said. “The role of the school should be to improve the student experience.” 

Hayes said he was disappointed in how he found out about the decision. Most students heard the news from social media or sports networks, including student government members.

“We had no notice from the school,” Hayes said. “If Iowa State isn’t proudly announcing something, then maybe it shouldn’t be doing it.” 

The resolution acknowledges the lack of student input in the expansion decision. It also discusses that the Big 12 is a community and why the addition of new schools may jeopardize the conference’s values, especially for those students in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

“If the principal goal of the Big XII Conference is truly to hold its own members to the highest ideals, this aim could not have been met without considering student voices throughout the expansion process,” the resolution says. “If this is not the principal goal of the Big XII, then we request a reevaluation of the Conference’s priorities.”

About five years ago, the Big 12 conference elected not to expand after a lengthy process examining the merits of about two dozen schools, BYU included. 

Part of the Big 12’s reason for not expanding was based on the opposition from the LGBTQIA+ community according to Fox Sports. In total, 25 different LGBTQIA+ groups co-signed a letter urging the Big 12 not to expand. 

The letter discussed BYU’s Honor Code, which included a section addressing homosexual behavior.

“Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code,” the Honor Code reads. “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.”

Under that definition, an openly gay individual cannot be a BYU coach or student athlete unless that person practices chastity. Any student found in violation can be suspended or dismissed. 

When the decision not to add BYU was made final five years ago, BYU school spokesperson Carri Jenkins came out with a statement. 

“We are very clear and open about our honor code, which all students understand and commit to when they apply for admission,” Jenkins said. “One’s stated sexual orientation is not an issue with admission.” 

In Feb. 2020, BYU changed the wording of the Honor Code, completely removing the “Homosexual Behavior” section. Two weeks after the change, the BYU Church sent a clarification letter on the new rules from Commissioner of the Church Educational System, Elder Paul V. Johnson. 

“The moral standards of the Church did not change with the recent release or the updated Honor Code,” stated the letter. 

President of the Socialize with Pride Organization at Iowa State, Katelynn Budziak, senior majoring in women’s and gender studies, said even with the removal of the “Homosexual Behavior” section, the University still upholds its controversial values. 

“BYU has made it clear that they will discriminate against people who choose a non-conforming sexual identity,” Budziak said. “We, as students, need to push top advisers at Iowa State to make a change and refuse to let BYU play, until they change their statement. It is not okay to discriminate over sexual or gender identity.”

In the last five years, the conference has remained at 10 teams, but with the removal of Texas and Oklahoma, the Big 12 knew eight teams would not be enough to keep the conference afloat.  

Financially speaking, the Big 12 needed to do something about the departure of its most notable powerhouses. Bob Bowlsby, the commissioner of Big 12 football, estimated that the conference would lose 50 percent of its TV value without the notable universities. 

However, by replacing the two lost programs with four new ones, the goal is to make up for some of the losses. However, Big 12 schools are still projected to lose almost $5 million according to Heartland College Sports

With the four new schools, the Big 12’s project revenue is now 50 percent more than originally projected. 

Emily Todd, a senior majoring in finance, shared some of the concerns about the expansion of the conference but also understood why students’ input was left out. 

“I think it would be cool for students to be involved in these decisions,” Todd said. “I just think financially this would have become a big burden. At the end of the day, students are typically only here for four or five years. The Big 12 is making decisions for long after we are gone.” 

Even though there were five senators who voted against the resolution, it passed during the Student Government’s weekly meeting. 

Victoria Fillipi, a junior in majoring political science, voted against the bill referencing a more accepting culture. She felt that it is better for the Senate to focus on Iowa State’s campus.

“The most productive path forward is to welcome all of the new conference members with respect and with an attitude of collaboration and inclusivity,” Fillipi said. “The focus should be on what we can control as student government members and how we can professionally and positively act to better the overall improvement of the student experience on Iowa State University’s campus.”

Hayes explained that he just wants the Senate and students in general to have more of a say in big decisions. The goal is to get the resolution as much coverage as possible so that the university must respect it. 

“I’m tired of the university doing things and ignoring our disapproval,” Hayes said. “If decisions are being made behind closed doors, I want to be in the room.”