Southern Utah University kowtows to political extremists

Everyone should go to Southern Utah University. I did. It’s nestled between Utah’s stunning National Parks and there is no winter inversion. There are generous staff members and award-winning faculty. The class sizes are small and tuition is affordable. There’s also the Tony Award winning Utah Shakespearean Festival.

I’m wondering, however, if the promises of SUU are perhaps too good to be true. Despite the rugged resistance of the Bristlecone pine on the university’s seal, it only takes a little cold wind for SUU leadership to blow over.

I was recently disappointed to learn that Southern Utah University’s new president, Scott Wyatt, let a few small town bullies pressure him into removing US Senator Harry Reid’s name from the outdoor center. Apparently, Iron County Commissioner Dave Miller and Cedar City Councilman Paul Cozzens are uncomfortable with a Democrat’s name in a visible place on campus. Never mind that Reid, probably one of SUU’s best known graduates, has a history of supporting environmental measures that protect the land SUU is surrounded by. The environmental studies program at UNLV also bears his name. It isn’t, as some claim, that Reid’s name was a bad fit.

Universities are places of learning and challenge. I’ve been to enough of them to know that even though the ideal of academic freedom isn’t always perfectly achieved in today’s political climate, university faculty and administration should be on the front lines when it comes to defending it. Pandering to partisanship isn’t the way to persuade students to come to SUU, and it isn’t the way to preserve political and intellectual diversity on campus.

It also isn’t very good T-Bird behavior. As I’ve said elsewhere, it doesn’t matter whether someone is a Democrat or Republican, all SUU alumni (just like all Utahns) should be treated well by their fellow alumni. Southern Utah University has a consistent history and mission of encouraging public service, but this latest move makes it seem like only a certain type of public service is encouraged. Do anything that doesn’t reflect the political beliefs of the majority population, and you could have your connection to SUU erased. 

We’ve started a petition that asks President Wyatt to reverse his decision and stand up for political and intellectual diversity by restoring Senator Reid’s name to the outdoor center. Join us by clicking here.

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