A Brigham Young University student who used an antigay slur as he defaced chalk art of a rainbow near the campus is no longer enrolled at the Mormon school, a spokeswoman confirmed Monday.
The student was videotaped on an evening in late August pouring water on the artwork, which was at the foot of a stairway leading to the campus in Provo, Utah, and saying “Faggots, go to hell.” The video was shared on Reddit, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
The student's name has not been revealed, but university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins told The Salt Lake Tribune this week that he is no longer at BYU. She would not say whether he dropped out or was expelled. “Because of federal laws and university privacy guidelines, BYU cannot provide additional information,” she said.
Amber Sorensen, a Provo resident, took the video of the student and posted it online. “I’ve never had like a face-to-face moment like this before, and it was a little bit shocking,” she told Salt Lake City’s KUTV. “I can’t believe that actually happened to my face.”
At the time he was a student at the university, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known informally as the Mormon Church.
The church and university have long been known for their anti-LGBTQ+ stances, but they made news this week when BYU announced the creation of a so-called Office of Belonging to fight bigotry at the school, including that related to gender and sexual orientation.
At the same conference where BYU President Kevin Worthen announced the office’s formation, Jeffrey Holland, a member of the church’s leadership body, the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, said university faculty and staff should be ready to take up figurative “muskets” to defend Mormon teachings, particularly “the doctrine of the family and ... marriage as the union of a man and a woman.” Holland is a former BYU president as well.
The video, coming on top of Holland’s statement, shocked LGBTQ+ rights supporters. “We’re horrified to see this hateful display of ignorance at BYU. Horrified, yet not surprised after Elder Jeffrey Holland gave license for such conduct, using dangerous and warlike comments against LGBTQ students earlier this week,” said a statement issued by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, which fights discrimination against LGBTQ+ students at religious colleges and universities. These schools receive taxpayer funding despite their discriminatory policies.
Later, the organization’s director, Paul Southwick, addressed the issue on Facebook Live, reading statements from queer BYU students detailing the hostile atmosphere at the university. He also pledged that REAP would continue to support LGBTQ+ students there and at other religious schools and hold their schools accountable.
BYU did issue a strongly worded statement Twitter denouncing the actions of the student in the video. “We unequivocally condemn behavior and language that is disrespectful and hurtful,” the statement said. “There is no place for hateful speech, or prejudice of any kind, on our campus or in our community. The Honor Code explicitly states that each member of the BYU community has the obligation to respect others. The incident seen in a video circulating on social media is now under review. We are striving to create a community of belonging composed of students, faculty and staff whose hearts are knit together in love. Every student and individual on our campus deserves to feel that belonging.”