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Boyd Ivey, for the Deseret Morning News
Spencer Kingman talks to fellow BYU students Wednesday at a meeting held to organize next week's protest.

PROVO — An on-campus protest opposing the invitation of Vice President Dick Cheney to speak at the April commencement ceremony has been approved by Brigham Young University officials.

A group of students met Wednesday night to organize the protest, scheduled for next Wednesday, as well as other possible demonstrations in the Provo area.

The location and time for the protest at BYU have not yet been decided, said BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.

"I don't have all the details," she said. "I do know it's through the College Democrats (club)."

Jenkins said, however, the university will not reconsider its decision to invite the vice president.

"It has been confirmed," she said.

BYU officials rarely allow protests on university property, and participating students said they were surprised to receive permission.

"To be completely honest, I wasn't as surprised when I found that Cheney was speaking as I was when (university officials) said they would allow a protest," said Eric Bybee, a senior who has been heavily involved in organizing what he calls the "anti-Cheney" movement.

The vice president's office informed the university in January of Cheney's willingness to speak at commencement. BYU's Board of Trustees and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including President Gordon B. Hinckley, extended the invitation to Cheney.

Soon after the university announced the graduation speaker, several students and professors expressed displeasure. An online petition opposing Cheney's BYU visit, cheneyspeech.blogspot.com, had garnered 1,297 signatures as of Wednesday night.

Four BYU professors released a letter Tuesday asking the university to withdraw its invitation to the vice president.

"From all indications, Cheney is responsible for the manipulation of intelligence used as a pretext for declaring war on Iraq, the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and domestic wiretapping," the letter reads. "There is every reason to question Cheney's ethics, including the conviction of his former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, Halliburton's financial gain from bloodshed and many other scandals."

At the student-led meeting Wednesday night, professor Kirk Dearden, one of the letter's authors, told the Deseret Morning News he doesn't think Cheney embodies the moral ethics emphasized at the university.

"We don't agree that someone who contradicts LDS values so much should be allowed to speak at BYU," he said.

Students crowded the small Provo home where the meeting was held and listened to a list of grievances against Cheney before discussing plans for future action.

Representatives of the College Democrats club told those at Wednesday's meeting that university officials had tentatively approved a second protest for April 26, the day of commencement, pending a review of activities occurring at the first protest. University officials could not be reached after the meeting for comment.

Some students said they would not attend the graduation ceremony if BYU fails to respond to student requests.

"I would boycott it if BYU didn't listen to the majority of students if they said they didn't want (Cheney) to come," said Ashley Sanders, who hosted the meeting.

Sanders said she hopes the university will either uninvite Cheney or agree to host an additional speaker with political views that counterbalance the vice president's.

Students discussed venues for a possible alternative commencement should the university not change its stance and tentatively planned to schedule the Provo Tabernacle.

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Meeting attendees were encouraged to participate in a letter-writing petition by sending letters to university officials and local newspapers listing their objections to Cheney's commencement speech.

Student organizer Bybee said protesting Cheney's visit does not represent an opposition to the university or the LDS Church.

"The people who want to protest are doing so because they love BYU," he said. "We feel like this is something bad for our school that we love very much."


E-mail: rwestenskow@desnews.com