Letter: UVU faculty and staff object to selection of commencement speaker

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Valley University graduates walk through the school's Hall of Flags at the beginning of commencement in Orem, Thursday, April 28, 2016. UVU awarded 5,409 degrees at its 75th commencement.

As faculty and staff at Utah Valley University, we must agree with Arty Diaz’s (Public Forum, Feb. 27) and Kelli Potter’s (Commentary, April 2) assessments that the school’s core value of inclusivity and “Exceptional Care” is undermined by the selection of our 2021 commencement speaker.

The administration’s and trustees’ choice to celebrate and give a voice to Wendy Watson Nelson at our most public annual event signals a lack of sympathetic understanding that in fact is dangerous to our LGBTQ+ students.

Many UVU faculty and staff shared Diaz’s “you have to be kidding me” reaction to hearing about this year’s commencement speaker. On Feb. 17, a group of 80-plus faculty and staff met (virtually) to question the selection, to discuss ways of supporting our LGBTQ+ community, and to call for greater transparency and thoughtfulness in future speaker selections. The Faculty Senate will also take up this issue.

We support Mr. Diaz and the many other parties working toward a more welcoming and inclusive environment at UVU. We want to reassure students that we will continue to oppose administrative blunders like this one while also maintaining our ongoing commitment to “Exceptional Care” in our own classrooms and campus spaces. We, the undersigned faculty and staff, are here now for all of our students, even, and especially when it feels like others are not.

Lydia R. Kerr

Breeanne Matheson

Robert Cousins

Grant Moss

Ruen-chuan Ma

Liz DeBetta

Justin Marks

Jeremy Sortore

Joshua C. Hilst

Rick McDonald

Hazel McKenna

Keith Snedegar

Alex Simon

Adrienne A. Winans

David C. Keller

Jessie Hensley

Scott Abbott

Chris Weigel

Mark Pepper

Kelsey Hixson-Bowles

Kim Abunuwara

Amanda Cooke

Suzy Cox

Erin Riggs

Allen Hill

Shannon Mussett

Kyle Kamaiopili

Geoffrey Zahn

Nathan Gorelick

Kara van de Graaf

John Hunt

Pierre Lamarche

Michael Minch

Maria Blevins

Christa Albrecht-Crane

Leandra H. Hernandez

Emily Branvold

Marianna Henry

Thomas Henry

Angela Banchero-Kelleher

Kate McPherson

Nathan Gale

Cynthia Wong

Jane Carlson

Monica Campbell

Julie J. Nichols

Ashley Nadeau

Debjani Chakravarty

Kehaulani Folau

Darah Snow

Jessica A. Pauly

Frey Seagrove-Nelson

Dianne McAdams-Jones

Jennifer Gallagher

Eric Stencil

Tiffany Nez

Sandie Waters

Lisa Lambert

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