On May 1, 2013, Weber State University announced its decision to name its new Center For Families and Continuing Education in honor of Boyd Packer and his wife, Donna. Not being a Weber alumnus, I generally wouldn’t care about the naming of buildings on campus, but this egregiously insensitive move by Weber State should offend every fair-minded taxpaying citizen of Utah.
First and foremost, Weber State University is a public institution of higher learning. Boyd Packer is a religious figure. With the exception of his military service during World War II, Packer has never worked outside of the LDS Church. It is wholly inappropriate to name a public building in honor of a man who has existed entirely in the religious arena.
Second, Packer’s commitment to education extends only into religious endeavor. For decades he has been critical of educational pursuit. In a letter to the All Church Coordinating Council in 1993, he wrote:
The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.
The writer or teacher who has an exaggerated loyalty to the theory that everything must be told is laying a foundation for his own judgment… The Lord made it very clear that some things are to be taught selectively and some things are to be given only to those who are worthy.
This is not a man for whom a public university should name a building of higher learning.
The final insult is in the choice of buildings, The Center for Families and Continuing Education. Boyd Packer has spent his entire “career” within the LDS Church attacking and denigrating every family that doesn’t fit his narrow world view. He has repeatedly condemned our LGBT community and promoted bigotry and even condoned violence against gays.
Weber State University’s mission statement is clear:
Encouraging freedom of expression and valuing diversity, the university provides excellent educational experiences for students through extensive personal contact among faculty, staff and students in and out of the classroom. Through academic programs, research, artistic expression, public service and community-based learning, the university serves as an educational, cultural and economic leader for the region.
Naming this new center for a man who not only shows disdain for intellectual pursuit, but is also one of Utah’s most notorious bigots is a clear violation of the University’s mission. This building should be named in honor of a person that has made positive contributions to the mission and goals of the University, to someone who respects diversity and promotes family and education from more than one narrowly-defined viewpoint.
The Board of Regents of Weber State University need to rethink this decision.