When Allison Tedford read on Facebook that the student associations were discontinued at BYU-Idaho, she felt like she had to do something. That’s when she started a petition to help bring them back.
Tedford, a sophomore studying political science, started a petition less than an hour after the school announced on the Student Associations Facebook page that the student associations were being discontinued, on Sept. 1. She has currently more than 1,000 supporters on her petition.
“I was gonna be the coordinator (for the student associations),” Tedford said. “I wanted to hop out with cultural night and … I was really sad, because I was so excited for all of that. I thought that there was maybe a way I could help bring it back. I had to try, at least.”
Amy LaBaugh, Student Life vice president for BYU-I, said that the school has a transition team of student directors who are working on organizing events like Cultural Night.
“That’s a really important event that we want to see continue and even get better,” LaBaugh said. “Also, they’re working on other events that have been important: just … a cultural ethnic food night, maybe doing a soccer World Cup. … It’s important that they continue and that we don’t lose sight of those things that are important in transition.”
LaBaugh said BYU-I has students who are from or served missions in over 100 countries around the world.
“It’s so important to BYU-Idaho that these events continue because that’s who we are as students and as a … worldwide Church,” she said.
The university will focus more on retention and on completion from now on. LaBaugh said 1 in 4 freshmen who start their education in BYU-I do not finish it, and 58 percent of students actually end up finishing their degree in the university.
“We see an opportunity for better mentoring and better support of our student organizations, so academic societies will be helpful, because they’ll receive professional mentoring,” LaBaugh said. “The other thing that will be important in that is that it’ll be tied to … their future job and career.”
According to the Academic Society’s Web page, every college on campus offers dozens of academic societies related to their teachings. Students are encouraged to form their own societies if they do not find any that interest them.
“(Academic Societies are) a place where we intend to invest and would like to see those grow, because we know how beneficial it is to completion and students becoming who they want to be when their time at college is done,” LaBaugh said.
Tedford said she feels like BYU-I stands out in the United States because of its cultural unity.
“Student associations played a big part on that (unity), obviously, just activities, cultural night,” Tedford said. “Cultural night was a big one. You don’t have to be part of that culture to participate. I think that makes people more open-minded, because they get to learn about other cultures.”
Connor Kidd, a junior majoring in international studies, served his mission in the California Roseville Mission, Hmong speaking, and said he found comfort in the associations when he got back.
“I think that’s what makes this university and the gospel of Jesus Christ so amazing,” Kidd said. “It’s not just an Idaho school; it’s not just an American religion. It’s a worldwide religion. It’s an international school in a sense. We have people from all over the world come over, and why not share a little bit?”
He said that even though he is a local, he still feels lonely at times.
“I can just imagine people from other cultures, from other countries,” Kidd said. “They’re in a new country, maybe they’ve never been to America before. They’re away from their family, their friends, their country; that can be … very hard for them to adjust.”
Kidd said that associations can be a safe environment for people to freely experience cultures and freely learn different languages.
“College can be lonely if you do it alone,” Kidd said.
He said he is still invited to events that his friends from the Korean, Chinese and Hmong associations organize, and he feels like the events are more genuine, even though the school is not involved with most of them anymore.
“I hope that those friendships will continue,” LaBaugh said. “I hope we’ll continue to support one another, but students don’t need the university for that. I think our focus needs to be on meeting the outcomes of the university and where we’re really struggling right now is in freshmen retention and placement.”
LaBaugh encourages students to continue to participate in the Cultural Night and other cultural events that will be coming up this semester; to look at the Academic Society’s Web page to see if there is something there that is a fit; and if not, to think about creating one.