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Brigham Young University students, faculty and alumni have launched at least two petition drives voicing their opposition to Vice President Dick Cheney speaking at the school's commencement in April.
Others plan to boycott the graduation, hold alternative ceremonies off campus, or publicly protest the vice president's speech, said Warner Woodworth, an organizational behavior professor who is helping with a petition drive on campus.
That effort and a separate online petition drive seek to force BYU to rescind Cheney's invitation or allow someone with an opposing view to have the same schoolwide audience.
BYU spokeswoman Carrie Jenkins confirmed Tuesday that at least one group has filed paperwork with the administration asking for permission to circulate a petition about Cheney's speech.
"The university has five days to respond to their request," Jenkins said.
Meanwhile, others on campus still are considering which kinds of actions to take.
Richard Davis, a BYU political science professor and adviser to the College Democrats, said the student group is considering various types of protests, on or off campus but "nothing has been set yet."
"It's fascinating that there's so much talk of doing something," Davis said. "I hope there is some way of channeling this frustration and concern so it can be dealt with in a constructive way."
Woodworth does not hesitate to speak out.
"Cheney is of such an unsavory character, that he makes his protégé, felon Scooter Libby, who was recently convicted of perjury and obstructing justice, seem as pure as a nun," he said Tuesday. "If BYU seeks to bring a model of abuse of power, greed and political extremism, which seeks to decimate citizens' rights guaranteed by our laws, then Cheney is a perfect choice. But if, on the other hand, the university hopes to offer a model to graduates of love and service to humanity, then better candidates are available."
Those are the same sentiments expressed in the online petition at http://cheneyspeech.blogspot.com.
"Cheney has made misleading statements about the tragic war which continues in Iraq, levied outrageous partisan accusations against his Democratic opponents, and used vulgarity on the Senate floor. He has been linked to serious scandals involving botched intelligence reports, no-bid contracts awarded to friends and political donors, and perjury convictions handed down to his own staff."
Because of such alleged actions, the petition says, Cheney should not be given a platform "for his controversial political agenda."
As of Tuesday evening, the online petition had hundreds of signatures, most by signers who identify themselves as current or past BYU students. Some are anonymous but list their graduations dates and others are clearly bogus.
Davis said he worries Cheney's presence on campus will fuel the perception that all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Republicans.
"The university has billed itself as being neutral, but we've had a pattern of bringing high profile conservatives like Sandra Day O'Connor, Margaret Thatcher, George H.W. Bush and now Dick Cheney," he said. "I can't think of a speaker at commencement or forum who was clearly identified as being politically liberal - or even a Democrat."
* PEGGY FLETCHER STACK can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-257-8725.