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(Satire) BYU Office of Belonging Creates Inclusive Haunted Houses

In February 2021, the BYU Committee on Race, Equity, and Belonging released its historic and groundbreaking report innovatively named Report and Recommendations of the BYU Committee on Race, Equity, and Belonging. The report was historic because of the historically low number of people who read it and groundbreaking because it was so long that there were concerns about the structural stability of the JFSB when it was printed there by a Sociology Professor who had forgotten to lesson plan again and figured it would be a good way to kill a week of class time.

In the report were 27 recommendations to address racism against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students at BYU. They included recommendations to racially discriminate in admissions, hiring, and promotion, as well as “create a space on campus where [BIPOC] and other underrepresented students can connect with one another, congregate, study, access services, and socialize” (yes those are all real). The Committee also included a recommendation to “consider renaming all named buildings on campus to functional names” (yes, another real quote). The Committee helpfully provided new names for buildings. The Harold B Lee Library (HBLL) would be renamed the Study Building Where No One Follows The No Talking Rules (SBWNOFTNTR), the David O McKay Building (MCKB) would be renamed the Hey I Exist Don’t Forget About Me Building (HIEDFAMB), and the Talmage Building would be renamed the Math Is Hard, Take Sociology And Become A Social Justice Warrior Instead Building (MIHTSABASJWIB).

BYU has yet to implement many of the committee’s recommendations but has implemented the recommendation to create a new Office of Belonging. When asked why creating this office was so important, Carl Hernandez III, the newly appointed Vice President of Belonging said, “We are very eager to start this office as an attempt to help students belong and add to the unnecessary bureaucracy of BYU.”

In an effort to prove they are doing something; the Office of Belonging has committed to help marginalized students “feel seen” by throwing celebrations for a cornucopia of holidays that may be celebrated by students on campus. “This is literally going to save lives” Bailey Atkinson-Lloyd (she/her), inclusive event coordinator for the Office of Belonging, said. “When a student sees their culture being celebrated, it can really help relieve the minority stress so many students carry with them every day.” Celebrations will include Passover, Indigenous People’s Day, Kwanzaa, Voodoo Festival, prayers to the god Moloch, chants to Baal, and D-day.

Halloween was the first of these celebrations. “It was literally really hard to figure out this celebration, no cap,” Atkinson-Lloyd said. She added, “Halloween is such an important holiday. I really felt the pressure to honor those that treasure this day so deeply… we just had to have a haunted house, but it was really hard to find things that would inclusively scare the students. Eventually, we had to get creative and make two separate haunted houses.”

The first haunted house was designed to scare marginalized groups and their allies. Phoenix Byrd (they/them) described their experience with this haunted house. "The scariest room by far was the one filled with nothing but Family Proclamations. I think this could actually be really damaging. I want to be an ally to those who celebrate Halloween, but after seeing that level of homophobia, patriarchy, and single shaming, I…I don't know, it's almost like being an ally can come with unintended consequences."

Byrd then fell into a daze before meandering off to the Education Department offices to talk through their cognitive dissonance. Consequently, the Chronicle was unable to get a comment on their experience with the room filled with videos of Jeffery R Holland saying, "musket fire.”

The second haunted house was designed to scare "the bigoted students on campus" according to Atkinson-Lloyd. "This one was really easy to make since those Peter Priesthoods and Molly Mormons are so close-minded that anything will scare them" she claimed.

The students however had mixed feelings, “they thought I was going to be afraid of a gay person, but he's actually a friend of mine, we high-fived as I passed through" Emily Johnson said. Another student, John Smith, did find aspects of the experience frightening. "The teenage gender reassignment surgery room will probably leave me scarred for life. Also, it was scary to see some of the female actors were not following the dress standards, so many bare shoulders and short shorts – I was mortified." 

Atkinson-Lloyd was disappointed nobody noticed the scariest part. "We purposely had almost no white actors in that haunted house because I know white people are deeply fearful of not being in power, but for some reason, none of them seemed frightened by it. I am so confused.”

Sociology Professor, Ryan Gabriel, had an explanation. “As I stated in my BYU devotional, ‘[Satan] attempts to convince us that if we want a world in which race is no longer a contributing factor… then we need to stop focusing on race.’ Obviously, these students are in the hands of the devil. That is why they could not recognize the importance of race in that haunted house. I cannot believe how racist BYU is.” Overcome with sorrow, Gabriel reached for his copy of How to be Antiracist, opened to page 19, and repeatedly read “the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination, the only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination” until he felt the spirit return to the room.

There was one report filed accusing BYU student Boe Jiden of saying “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black!” to some of the actors. BYU is launching an intensive investigation and has banned the accused student.

Carl Hernandez III feels the event was a success. “I think despite the differences in taste, we were able to provide a scary experience to everyone.” He continued, “We did go a little over budget, but luckily, we were able to get some money reallocated from the football team to cover for it. Frankly, I think they deserve it considering their performance as of late.” Hernandez is already planning the next one, “You know, next year we could just have a walkthrough of the Testing Center as the haunted house.”

The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run publication and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The exaggerated views and reporting expressed in this piece are merely jokes from the author. If you believed this was real, you really need to get out more.

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