Last week, a Big 12 university president made a bit of news when he referred specifically to BYU’s hopes to join the conference. In an interview with the Iowa State school newspaper, Iowa State President Steven Leath said, via the Salt Lake Tribune:
"I'm getting more input from individuals on BYU than any other school," Leath said.
"I am getting considerable input on both sides of the issue," he said. [BYU] is a school of integrity, they play by the rules, quality program, and people that have been there had great experiences and say we should consider BYU."
But, the president continued, referring to concerns expressed recently by LGBTQ advocacy groups about BYU's Honor Code, "I am getting an equal number that send me their Honor Code, their [angst] with a number of their social issues.
"And then there is a smaller group that says from a logistical standpoint, the fact that they don't compete on Sundays, the complexity especially of schools as far away as West Virginia make it unworkable."
So, that’s pretty interesting, and a rare moment of candor from an administrator. What sorts of feedback might they be getting? After all, Big 12 presidents probably aren’t checking message boards, their Twitter mentions, or a lot of blogs, but they probably are at least checking their email.
So I filed an open records request for every email sent to Steven Leath that discussed BYU’s Big 12 candidacy from August 1 through August 17 (the date of the interview).
It would appear that most of the feedback President Leath was receiving happened well before the 1st of August, and an additional request will be filed for those other emails. Iowa State did send us two emails, which I will publish below. This story will be updated as I receive additional emails.
UPDATE: On August 30, I got an email from Iowa State telling me there were no emails sent from July 1 to July 30.
Here’s the first email sent, on August 9th, titled “Concerning LGBT + Tolerance and possible Big 12 Expansion:
This story was also shared on CougarBoard. While this writer is just one of many possible voices, one speaking of the potential power of sports to help bridge gaps of understanding with religion, sexual orientation or politics seems like a powerful one.
The second email, dated August 12th, is titled “An experience at BYU”:
Now, this email may not convince somebody especially concerned about LGBT issues, but it certainly speaks positively to the professionalism and compassion of the BYU football staff and offices. No matter what, that’s a very nice thing to do.
These two letters, unquestionably, can’t represent the entirety of feedback that President Leath is getting. It would appear that much of it must be occurring outside the scope of his school email. And that correspondence is likely to have a limited effect on his decision-making, if at all, so please don’t take this post as an invitation to start a coordinated email campaign.
But if nothing else, this at least shows not every voice in this discussion is negative towards BYU. And, given the story that thrust BYU and LGBT issues into the public eye was posted on August 8, the fact that no outwardly negative emails turned up does seem of note.
How exactly this saga will play out, of course, very much remains to be seen.