Group Bashes WSU Gay Service Scholarship
Eagle Forum Says Award Promotes Illegal Behavior
March 11, 2000
Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110
By Maria Titze, Deseret News staff writer
Conservatives are outraged, while higher education officials dont appear
concerned about a privately funded scholarship offered by Weber State University.
The scholarship, which would give $2,000 to a student who serves the gay, lesbian and
bisexual communities, is an outrage, says the conservative Eagle Forum.
"I certainly intend to visit with some regents and others who I know have
influence on (the Board of Regents), including the governor, about this," said Gayle
Ruzicka, president of the Eagle Forum. "I think its absolutely
But the Board of Regents has no plan to address the issue at its meeting in St. George
"At least, it isnt on our agenda," said chairman Charlie Johnson.
"Scholarships are handled by the administration and trustees of the
Johnson said the question of scholarship donations made with controversial strings
attached hasnt ever come up in Utah before.
"We dont know the answer because its not something weve looked
at before," he said.
The scholarship, named by WSU students and professors in honor of Matthew Shepard, the
gay Wyoming college student who was beaten to death in 1998, was originally intended only
for students who were gay, lesbian or bisexual.
But the universitys legal counsel advised the availability of the award be
broadened to include anyone who serves the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities, said WSU
President Paul Thompson.
"There are two criteria. The first is academic excellence," he said. A 3.25
grade point average would be the threshold.
"The other is service to gay and lesbian students on our campus," he said.
Harden R. Eyring, executive assistant to the Commission of Higher Education, said
"universities receiving gifts with restrictions" is neither uncommon nor
"The only question you might ever have would be if the (scholarship grant) purpose
were illegal," he said.
But sodomy is illegal in Utah, according to Ruzicka.
"And now we have a scholarship available to people who promote or serve
that," she said. "Would they allow a scholarship that promoted the use of
marijuana or encouraged teenagers to smoke? I dont think so."
Ruzicka also questioned how "service" to the gay community would be defined.
"Thats the most insane thing," she said. "Anyone could get this
(award) as long as they were promoting or encouraging an immoral and illegal
Thompson said students applying for the scholarship will be asked to write an essay
explaining their contribution.
"It may mean participating in club activities, doing things to help provide a
safer, more supportive climate on campus," he said.
Thompson said hes fully aware the scholarship is "a sensitive issue, and it
presents a lot of challenges."
"But our attorney has told us the closest precedent he can find is the East
High Gay Alliance vs. the Salt Lake City School Board case," he said, where a
federal judge ruled the district had to allow all extracurricular clubs or none.
"Weve already accepted at least 50 donor-directed scholarships," he
said. "If we were to reject this scholarship and be sued or challenged, we would put
those other scholarships at risk."
Thompson also notes that many schools around the country have scholarships similar to
WSUs, including Iowa State, San Jose State and UCLA.
The University of Utah has no similar gay-service scholarship, but Kay Harward,
associate vice president for student affairs, said "if someone came to us with money
focused on a given lifestyle, we wouldnt screen it out. Wed accept it and try
to find people who fit the criteria."
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