Profs Say BYU Short On Academic Freedom
By Kristen Moulton (AP writer)
The climate for academic freedom at Brigham Young
University is "distressingly poor" and infringements widespread,
the American Association of University Professors
said in a report issued today.
A 19-page report
by an AAUP committee that probed the firing of a professor and academic
freedom issues at the Mormon Church owned university was published
in the September-October issue of the AAUP journal Academe.
The 45,000 members
of AAUP, national faculty group committed to academic freedom on
campuses, are to vote next June on whether to censure BYU's administration.
Such a censure
would not threaten BYU's accreditation but would be a blow to its
prestige in the academic community.
The report concluded
that the large number of cases charging violations of academic freedom
suggest "a widespread pattern of infringements on academic freedom
in a climate of oppression and fear of reprisals."
efforts to protect orthodoxy at BYU particularly when it
comes to feminist and Mormon studies hinder professors from
staying current in their disciplines, the report said.
violated former English Professor Gail Turley Houston's academic
freedom when it refused to give her continuing status, BYU's version
of tenure, the AAUP said. The administration had accused Houston
of attacking BYU in speeches at a nonchurch sponsered forum on Mormon
studies, and in Student
Review, a non-campus newspaper.
academic vice president, wrote in a letter to faculty and staff
Friday that the university did not violate Houston's academic freedom
but that she had violated the university's policy by "publicly contradicting...church
doctrine and deliberately attacking the church."
In BYU's response
to the AAUP report, also published in Academe, the university said
AAUP is not living up to its own statement that religious universities
can place limitations on academic freedom to preserve their religious
BYU rejects "AAUP's goal to impose a secular model on religious
In their rebuttal
to the 17-page AAUP report, school officials cited the following
excerpt from a 1994 speech Houston made at the Sunstone
Symposium, an independent annual gathering in Salt Lake City that
invites analysis of the Mormon Church.
"The LDS Church
seeks to silence its members who are having visions of Mother in
Heaven. In effect, women are being told by their Mormon pastors
to deny their own visions of God. ... I did not know my Mother-in-Heaven
until a just a few years ago -- and I ask why would my church want
me to forget her or deny her -- I cannot and will not do that."
said those words leave little question Houston violated school policy.
was saying that the church is wrong on the issue of praying to Heavenly
Mother," BYU officials state in their rebuttal. "To assert that
this was not advocacy is simply implausible."
The AAUP report
also castigates BYU for several other cases in recent years, including
the firing of Professor Steven Epperson, who fell out of favor with
his bishop for failing to attend church on Sundays. Epperson said
he spent that time with his family feeding homeless people in Salt
cases of academic freedom violations are mentioned in the AAUP report,
though investigators said they heard so many complaints during their
interviews with more than 100 individuals that not every one was
"I was surprised
by the number of cases that came to our attention," said AAUP investigator
Linda Pratt, a professor at the University of Nebraska. "Usually,
when AAUP comes to a campus, we know about one or possibly two very
troubling cases, but with BYU, there was just a flood of them."