Utah

Two professors and a university president at two Utah universities are facing intense scrutiny from colleagues and students after signing a legal brief provided to the Supreme Court that defends traditional marriage.

Utah State University professors Richard Sherlock and Kay Bradford, along with Utah Valley University president Matthew Holland, were three of 100 scholars nationwide that signed an amicus curiae, or friend of the court brief, in support of traditional marriage.

Opponents of the brief allege the three, by signing the document, are perpetuating discrimination in the name of their respective universities.

The “100 scholars of marriage” brief is one of more than 140 briefs provided to the Supreme Court as it decides whether state bans on gay marriage are constitutionally legal.

Arguing in favor of gay marriage bans, the “100 scholars of marriage” brief states that “forcing a state to redefine marriage in genderless terms will seriously disserve the vast majority of the state’s children.”

The brief further argues redefining marriage will bring an increase in poverty, the number of children with emotional problems, and teenage pregnancies and abortions, among other things.

“[A] social institution is like an ecosystem—substantial changes to it can have consequences that are unintended and slow-moving, but still devastating,” the brief concludes.

Because of the brief’s staunch defense of traditional marriage, some professors and students at Utah State and Utah Valley have gone on the offense toward the two professors and president. A contingent of students and employees at each university penned letters that express their disapproval.

In a letter sent to the Herald Journal, 250 students and professors at Utah State wrote the signatures of Sherlock and Bradford “send a clear message of intolerance to those LGBTQ students, faculty, and allies” at the university.

“Ultimately, they used their university title to perpetuate discrimination — that’s not OK, and that’s why we wrote this letter,” said Senior Bret Nielsen, who drafted the letter.

In response, Sherlock said his opposition to gay marriage is not equivalent to discrimination, especially when related to gay students.

“We all have views,” Sherlock told the Herald Journal. “Our task as teachers is not to keep those views hidden but insure that we are being fair to students who disagree.

Bradford has not commented on the controversy.

At Utah Valley, more than 100 employees sent a letter to Salt Lake Tribune alleging Holland was out of line by signing the brief. The letter argues that all Utah Valley employees, including Holland, “have the right to speak publicly as private citizens on controversial issues.”

Yet, the letter seems to immediately revoke that right from Holland.

“However, as the public face of UVU to the larger community, Holland has a special responsibility to avoid public pronouncements that would harm his ability to carry out his duties as president of a state university officially committed to ‘diversity and inclusion,’ ” the letter continues.

A Utah Valley official refuted the letter’s claim, telling The College Fix that Holland signed the brief “as an individual, and not in any capacity on behalf of the university.”

The official emphasized a footnote from the brief’s appendix that stated the listing of the each signee’s university was for identification purposes only.

“Opinions expressed are those of the individual amici, and not necessarily of their affiliated institutions,” the footnote reads.

Furthermore, the university told The Fix Holland has “always championed” diversity and inclusion on campus “creating an environment of genuine respect and civility for all people.”

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Obergefell v. Hodges, the case the brief was provided for, on April 28. It is expected to announce its ruling sometime in late June.

College Fix reporter Nathan Rubbelke is a student at Saint Louis University.

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IMAGE: Wendy Long/Flickr

A college in Utah that’s 102-years-old, Dixie State College, is expected to become a full-fledged university in the coming months, and with that comes an official name change.

But whether that name will continue the tradition with “Dixie University” remains to be seen.

Many folks in the Southwest Utah region, where the college is located, say the name Dixie simply honors the state’s past and its settlers. Meanwhile, the Salt Lake City chapter of the NAACP is totally against it.

An article by Ben Winslow, a reporter with a Fox News affiliate in the area, reported this week on the ongoing controversy:

Discussion about changing the school’s name when it gains university status has brought heated debate at recent public meetings. Supporters of “Dixie” say it is an integral part of southern Utah’s history — Mormon pioneers used the term when they settled in the area to grow cotton. …

… The word “Dixie” appears on many businesses and landmarks in the Washington County area, from Dixie Regional Medical Center to the Dixie Palms Motel on the St. George Boulevard. The word “Dixie” is lit up at night on a red rock cliffside overlooking the city. …

Opponents claim the school has a history of racism. They point to pictures in Dixie College’s yearbook — titled “The Confederate” — that show Homecoming Queens carrying the Confederate flag, the old mascot “The Rebel,” and white people performing school skits in “blackface.”

A few weeks ago, a statue of a confederate soldier was finally removed from campus. Opponents cheered while some alumni were incensed.

… Says St. George Mayor Dan McArthur: “… Dixie is a place, and in this place, it happens to be southwest Utah and we’re proud of the fact that we are called Dixie.”

The Salt Lake Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is now weighing in on the controversy. … President Jeanetta Williams said their board voted to support removing the name “Dixie” from the school. … (She) said she believes Utah’s “Dixie” is still too tied to the Civil War, slavery and racism.

“We feel that the name Dixie should be removed and that they could come up with another name other than Dixie,” she said. “We would support St. George University. We would support even Red Rock, because of the red rock there in the area. Any other name other than the name Dixie.”

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As a society, we believe that equality is one of America’s enduring values. But how far are we willing to go to ensure equality? Will the ends justify the means?

Affirmative action has been around since the 1960s. It calls for government policies giving preferential treatment based on a person’s race. Before the Supreme Court case of Bakke v. Regents, colleges and government institutions used a racial quota system. Today, minorities are given brownie points in the name of increasing “diversity.” Colleges all over the United States have seen an increase in minority representation, especially among Hispanics and Blacks.

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An extensive survey released this fall reveals the top issues Utah voters consider when choosing a candidate.

The survey was released by the Utah Foundation, and is sponsored by KSL and the Hinckley Institute. The survey was conducted by Dan Jones and Associates.

The top issues, according to Utah voters, include jobs, the economy, K-12 education, government spending and health care. The survey included different demographics, such as Democrats, Republicans, older people and younger people.

In a Hinckley Forum on Wednesday, Kirk Jowers, the director of the Hinckley Institute and Steve Kroes, president of the Utah Foundation, discussed the survey numbers and gave their opinion of what it means for the candidates in the November election.

The issues discussed by Jowers and Kroes were education, immigration and government spending. The questions asked in the survey did not only concern where people stand, but what solutions should be implemented, Jowers said.

It was the most extensive survey ever done in Utah, he said.

The No. 1 issue in the survey-by far-was the economy. Kroes was surprised that the survey results showed few Utahns were in favor of extending unemployment benefits.

Read the full story at the Daily Utah Chronicle.

People packed into the Marriott Library on Wednesday to learn a new method to improve quality of life through neuroscience and robotics.

Yoky Matsuoka, a scientist researching nerobiotics, was the presenter at the 17th annual Gould Lecture.

Matsuoka has used neurobiotics to create artificial limbs that people will one day be able to control with their thoughts, in hopes of improving the lives of people with disabilities.

Combining her interest in tennis with an understanding of the human body, Matsuoka began working on a robot that could play tennis and would be able to change its skill level. She worked on this robot throughout her graduate career. In doing so, she realized that her passion was more about understanding human beings and researching the possibilities of building a device that was capable of that level of intelligence.

[…]

When people suffer spinal cord injuries, the connection between the brain and the spinal cord becomes severed and patients lose the ability to control their limbs, depending on where the break is located. Matsuoka is working to bridge the broken gap.

Doctors implant chips in patients’ brains and hook them up to a computer so the patients can control a cursor on a screen with their thoughts. This allows them to communicate with others when they had previously been unable to and seek help when needed.

“Of course there is other research that can be done with stem cells to do it chemically, but at this point, this is what is really helping people with spinal cord injuries,” Matsuoka said

Read the full story at the Daily Utah Chronicle.

A new drug candidate, PIE12-trimer, developed by a U biochemist and his colleagues, could potentially prevent HIV and also prevent HIV from advancing to AIDS.

The study, published Aug. 18, found that PIE12-trimer is an anti-HIV drug candidate that has the capability to keep the virus from attacking cells in the human body.

The first step for Michael Kay, associate professor of biochemistry in the School of Medicine and senior author of the study, is to raise money to study the effects of the drug on animals. After two or three years of research, they will begin clinical trials on humans.

There are two potential uses for the drug. The first is to use the drug as a microbicide to prevent HIV by using the drug topically through a vaginal ring, and secondly to treat infected HIV patients by preventing the spread of the virus in the body.

The team is working with Patrick Kiser, professor of bioengineering, to design a vaginal ring with the microbicide that would give 30 days of protection from HIV—which could be helpful in third-world countries.

The issue of HIV/AIDS is often swept under the rug and much of the time people think they are invincible to contracting the diseases, said David Olson, a senior in health. “It seems like with all the technology we have they should have something to cure or prevent it.”

Read the full story at the Daily Utah Chronicle.