PROVO, Utah (ABC4 News) – In an effort to bring Brigham Young University back to a ‘Christ-centered education’, Hanna Seariac and other BYU students have started a petition to create awareness and change on the university’s campus.
BYU, a school owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has long been known for their religious courses and enforcing an ‘Honor Code’ in which students agree to live by church standards when attending the school.
Hanna Seariac and other BYU students believe that in recent years, BYU has been drifting away from the church’s teachings in classrooms and throughout campus.
“For the last couple of years, I have just observed the way BYU has been going. I have heard a lot of professors suggest things…that are contrary to the church or in opposition to the church,” says Seariac. “While I have had a lot of really great professors, I have heard a lot about how some professors seem to directly attack the church and that just started to concern me.”
BYU’s mission statement is to “assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.” However, Seariac says that “there are definitely ideas in opposition to the church on campus that most people are aware of but, then there is also a lack of talking about God in every single class and talking about God in class is the purpose of the university.”
So, Seariac and her friend, Tristan Mourier, wrote up a letter and posted it to social media asking people to sign the petition in support of ‘Emphasizing Christ-Centered Education at Brigham Young University’ because ‘BYU was never meant to be like other universities’.
When Seariac was asked about specific experiences at BYU that led her to write this letter, she says one example that surprised her was the number of people she knows that have tried to start a pro-life club at BYU (including herself) but have not found any support in doing so.
“Right now BYU doesn’t have an official pro-life club…so when I went to the university to start a pro-life club, I couldn’t find a faculty member (to support me), most were saying that it was too political to do. But Tristan’s friend tried to start one as well, she got the response that it was too political.”
“That was a big wake-up call for me,” Seariac says of not being able to find support to start a pro-life club at BYU. “The church’s stand on abortion is pretty defined. It is not something I would say is debatable. I would say prophets and apostles have been quite clear that we are pro-life (except in certain circumstances such as rape or incest).”
The petition doesn’t call for any major action to take place at the university but rather the request to have “an assessment of whether or not the University encourages courses, clubs, panels, conferences, events, and activities to align themselves with Latter-day Saint religious values.”
“Our goal really is to just have a conversation with administrators at BYU to be able to raise our concerns. We didn’t want to call anyone out, we didn’t want to make a department or faculty member feel attacked,” Seariac says of the petition. “We just want to say ‘hey we are feeling like BYU has moved away from its mission statement’ and encourage BYU to see if that is the case. We aren’t really asking for a specific action because we trust that the Board of Trustees will take care of the school and the university. We just feel that campus has changed for the worse and we would like to see if (the school) agrees with that and then move forward and change some things to make sure that our education can be Christ-centered.”
While Seariac has faced backlash in promoting this letter, she says that she’s been overwhelmed by the number of direct messages she has received on social media-mostly in support of her petition. However, people on Twitter have responded to her efforts by calling them “worse than I could have imagined” and inviting her to “feel free to leave” if unhappy. Her efforts are also met in opposition with a group on campus who earlier this year protested the school’s Honor Code.
When asked what her overarching goal in promoting the petition is, Seariac said, “We want to have Jesus Christ be the center of all disciplines at BYU. We do not want professors to speak in direct opposition to the church and we would like to have members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feel as though BYU is a campus that allows them to explore, develop and strengthen their faith.”
Seariac says she has already sent the letter to school administrators and plans on sending it to church authorities soon.
Click here to read Seariac’s full letter/petition to BYU.