In early May, Weber State University announced their center for families would be named after former WSU alumni and Mormon apostle Boyd K. Packer.
Chloe D. Merrill, Packer Center director explained, “The center is named for the Packers because they are alumni of the university, and because of their values of education and family.”
The board of the Utah Stonewall Democrats sent a letter to Alan Hall, Chairman of the Weber State University Board of Regents, expressing their opposition to the decision to name the center after Packer:
Mr. Hall, we highly urge you to reconsider associating the name of Mr. Packer with a Center for Families. Weber State University is an institution of higher learning, owned by the people of the state of Utah. The name of this Center should reflect the diversity of Weber State University, and honor people who are committed to the betterment of all our communities served by it, not just one limited segment.
With the exception of a stint as a combat pilot in WWII, Packer’s entire career has been within the LDS Church and its institutions. He received an Associate’s Degree from Weber, before going on to Utah State University and Brigham Young University.
Weber State University spokesman John Kowalewski indicated that while the university understands that not all members of the greater community respect the decision, Weber is standing firm. He stated that the goal was to raise money and that to date they had raised roughly three quarters of the desired amount. The Packers, however, have donated no money to the project.
Stonewall Democrats board member Bob Henline responded: “No amount of money makes bigotry acceptable. For the past 30 years or more, Packer has demonstrated a remarkable track record of denigrating various parts of our population. He has made comments against interracial marriage, feminists, intellectuals and the LGBT community. He represents a limited section of our population, and quite frankly, he is a bigot.”
Gail Turpin, another member of the Stonewall board, added “It’s not about the church, it’s about Boyd K. Packer. He talked at the recent conference about how people can be too tolerant, which was clearly a reference to marriage equality. He has traditionally spoken in a very demeaning manner about LGBT people.
“I have LDS people in my family, and I have gay people in my family, and I love them all. I don’t like seeing the Packer name associated with a family center when he has spoken that way about half my family. It’s hurtful. It causes me emotional pain.”
The Stonewall Democrats, among others, helped push an online petition started by James Carroll, which now has over 2,300 signatures. Despite the public outcry, however, Weber State remains committed to the Packer name. Kowalewski defended the university’s commitment to diversity by referencing a scholarship established in the name of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was brutally murdered years ago.
“Are they saying we need to tip the scales to neutrality by doing something terribly wrong? Weber State’s mission statement says it is committed to ‘valuing diversity.’ This is a slap in the face to the community.” Henline added.