BYU NewsNet has a detailed article summarizing the newly revised BYU policy concerning political activities on campus and political involvement by BYU faculty, staff, and students. [Hat tip: ASA.] There are also stories on the revised policy at the Deseret News and the SL Trib. If anyone has a link to the full text of the revised policy, please post it in the comments.
Here's a quote from the BYU NewsNet story:
According to the policy itself, the revisions are a necessary part of guarding against perceived partisanship, which is "often interpreted as endorsement by the university's affiliated sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." The policy's introduction also states that changes were made to preserve the university's tax exemption status with the Internal Revenue Service.
Translation: BYU and the Church are held to a higher standard so they have to be really careful to obey both the letter and the spirit of political neutrality. Other universities and denominations can get away with just about anything. You can't really blame BYU for this kind of regulation. They're just doing their best to avoid messy incidents.
Case in point, from the Deseret News article: "Some people have pointed out last year's campus visit by Vice President Dick Cheney as the reason for BYU's actions. Cheney spoke at BYU's April commencement exercises. The event drew several protests by students, military veterans and others." BYU of course denies the Cheney visit has anything to do with the policy revision. But — pretending that they are just saying that because it is easier than explaining exactly why a visit by the Vice President of the United States created such a stir on campus — what's wrong with having diverse political views expressed on campus? Isn't that part of a college education? Is the problem with the prior policy, with the BYU bureaucrats who administer the policy and manage the campus, or with the student body itself?
The SL Trib article ends with this statement: "BYU does not endorse parties, platforms or candidates; it encourages students and employees to participate in the political processes."