A coalition of college students plans to use Utah’s football rivalry-turned-holy war and a time-honored tradition of campus pranks to make a joint political statement this Saturday.
To bring attention to climate change, students from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University say they will light a giant purple Y in the mountains over LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, making it visible during halftime of the Utah-BYU game.
As a blend of red and blue — shorthand these days for Republicans and Democrats, as well as U. and BYU school colors, respectively — the color purple is meant as a call for bipartisan action on the issue, the coalition says.
“As students, we can show Democrats and Republicans that this isn’t something that is partisan, that it’s a people issue,” said Nicholas Huey, co-founder of The Climate Campaign, a student-driven effort not officially affiliated with either of the two schools.
Huey, an advertising student at BYU, said he wanted to use his training to de-politicize discussions about climate change.
“Democrats kind of own climate change right now,” he said, “and it’s something that we conservatives can talk about as well.”
So he approached U. students with an idea for a joint campaign involving a series of pranks and counter-pranks with a purple-colored theme. BYU kicked off the initiative by leaving purple flowers on cars in the U. parking lot; U. students retaliated by adorning a BYU campus statue of Brigham Young with a custom-painted football helmet and a climate change slogan.
“Democrats and Republicans are one of the oldest, bitter rivalries in the U.S.,” Huey said, and the U.-BYU rivalry is entrenched across the West. So if the two schools could unite around climate change, he said, perhaps U.S. politicians could as well.
“We want to come together to show our representatives and senators that it is possible for the left and the right to meet,” said Carly Lansche, a Climate Campaign volunteer and an urban ecology major at the University of Utah.
Action on both sides is needed in the U.S. to “make change that will be lasting and sustainable for future generations,” Lansche said. “It really goes to show that this issue is important and that it’s worth reaching across sides to shake hands.” she said.
And while U. students will help them with their purple halftime Y., Lansche said some of her peers already have a top-secret plan to best BYU’s stunt with a future prank of their own.