The Lord’s University
by Bryan Waterman and Brian Kagel

ernest wilkinson1. President Ernest Wilkinson, who oversaw BYU’s phenomenal growth between 1951 and 1971, is known among Mormons for his strict regulation of BYU student social life—including the institutionalization of dress and grooming standards—and for his Cold War assault on liberal faculty members. (Courtesy BYU Public Communications.)





dallin oaks2. President Dallin Oaks sometimes used Wilkinson as a conservative foil during his term in office, 1971-80, though in many respects he maintained or strengthened his predecessor’s policies. Ambivalent regarding the resurgence of American feminism during the 1970s and an ardent opponent of the ERA and Title IX, Oaks struggled with members of his ad hoc committee on women’s concerns over how to respond to feminism in public. He became an apostle of the LDS church four years after leaving BYU. (Courtesy BYU Public Communications.)



jeffrey holland3. President Jeffrey Holland was Commissioner of Church Education before heading BYU from 1980 to 1989. Generally credited with a broad view of the university’s academic potential and a desire to gain faculty trust, Holland did oversee some tightening measures on campus, such as the formalization of continuing ecclesiastical endorsements for students, and strict restrictions on independent student publications. Like Oaks, Holland became an apostle following his tenure as BYU president. (Courtesy BYU Public Communications.)



rex lee4. President Rex Lee, who served as BYU’s head from 1989 to 1995, attempted to convince media and faculty members alike that academic freedom was alive and well at the school despite the Farr and Knowlton firings and controversies over the implementation of a statement on academic freedom. Founding dean of BYU’s law school and a former solicitor general under U.S. president Ronald Reagan, Lee died in early 1996, shortly after his resignation as president. (Courtesy BYU Public Communications.)



merrill bateman5. President Merrill Bateman, who has led BYU since 1996, directed the school’s most visible capital campaign and increased the student enrollment cap. A former dean of the university’s business school and executive for a prominent candy corporation, Bateman has been embroiled in several controversies ranging from accusations that he plagiarized a portion of his inaugural speech as BYU president to the firing of Gail Turley Houston and subsequent investigation and censure of BYU by the American Association of University Professors. (Courtesy Public Affairs, LDS Church.)



bruce hafen6. Bruce Hafen, a BYU law professor and former president of Mormon church-owned Ricks College (Rexburg, Idaho), served as provost under Rex Lee. Hafen sought to define “appropriate” feminism at BYU and was accused by some of interfering in Cecilia Konchar Farr’s third-year review. Hafen’s neoconservative views have played a major role in refashioning BYU’s sense of mission for the twenty-first century. (Courtesy BYU Public Communications.)




alan wilkins7. Alan Wilkins, academic vice president under Lee and Bateman, received his appointment during a controversial period at BYU reportedly, in part, for his expertise in organizational behavior. Wilkins was a key administrative player in the firing of Gail Turley Houston. (Courtesy BYU Public Communications.)




james gordon iii8. James Gordon III, a BYU law professor and associate academic vice president, chaired the committee that formulated BYU’s academic freedom statement and drafted responses to the AAUP’s report on academic freedom at BYU. Known for his sense of humor in the classroom, Gordon stoically faced down charges that BYU had violated Gail Turley Houston’s academic freedom. (Courtesy BYU Public Communications.)




cecilia konchar farr9. Cecilia Konchar Farr taught feminist theory and American literature at BYU from 1990 to 1994. Her feminist activism, on- and off-campus, created several university controversies and (though the administration initially claimed she was fired for academic reasons) led to her dismissal in 1993. (Courtesy Michelle Macfarlane.)




david knowlton

10. David Knowlton, also fired from BYU in 1993, was a popular anthropology professor who upset some church leaders and members with his research on terrorism against Mormon missionaries in Latin America and with his fervent public defense of free inquiry for Mormon scholars. Knowlton is shown here speaking to reporters following his unsuccessful appeal. (Courtesy Daily Universe.)

gail turley houston

11. Gail Turley Houston (center), an English professor at BYU from 1990 to 1996, was placed on probation in 1993 and fired in 1996, primarily for her public positions on Mormon feminism. A driving force behind the creation of BYU’s Women’s Resource Center in 1992-93, Houston had, like Farr, been controversial for feminist activism on campus. (Courtesy Michael Amundsen.)

brian evenson12. Brian Evanson taught in BYU’s English department from 1994 to 1995, until controversy over his nationally published colelction of stories, Altman’s Tongue, and the likelihood that BYU would not grant him continuing status unless he altered the content of his fiction, prompted him to seek employment elsewhere. (Courtesy Sunstone.)



scott abbott and sam rushforth13. German professor Scott Abbott (right) and botany professor Sam Rushforth (left) co-founded a BYU chapter of the American Association of University Professors in 1995. A chapter had existed previously under President Ernest Wilkinson. Following Gail Turley Houston’s firing in 1996, the national AAUP investigated BYU’s academic freedom climate and eventually censured the school’s administration in 1998. (Courtesy Nancy Rushforth.)





14. VOICE: BYU’s Committee to Promote the Status of Women was founded in 1988 and became a campus club in 1990. The group attracted local attention for its activism in protest of violence against women and national attention in 1991 for a satirical curfew proposal. The group has survived several rounds of probation and confrontations with administrators and campus conservatives. (Courtesy VOICE.)

curfew notice15. VOICE posted 1,000 copies of this flyer on campus in November 1991, sparking one of the most publicized events in BYU history. The curfew proposal was accompanied by a 400-person demonstration on campus, footage of which aired on CNN.





anti-voice cartoon

16. VOICE‘s high-profile feminist activism brought club members several enemies in the surrounding community, including BYU’s DittoHead Conservative club and local chapters of the Eagle Forum. This cartoon, typical of the anti-VOICE cartoons published by the ultraconservative Utah County Journal after one of VOICE’s annual Take Back the Night marches, associates the group with an eclectic mix of supposedly scurrilous characters: Sunstone magazine, the BYU English department, R-rated movies, and anti-honor code sentiments. (Courtesy John Taylor, Utah County Journal.)


17. On 10 June 1993, when the Farr and Knowlton firings were announced, students of the dismissed professors rallied at the Smoot Administration Building in protest. (Courtesy Sunstone and Salt Lake Tribune.)

daily universe cartoon

18. BYU administrators initially denied religious motivations for the Farr and Knowlton firings. The Daily Universe responded to this claim with the above cartoon. (Courtesy Daily Universe.)

pat bagley cartoon

19. As tensions between Mormon church leaders and liberal intellectuals at BYU and elsewhere began to surface in the early 1990s, both sides perceived themselves as under attack. The feelings of many in the independent Mormon sector were summed up by Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist (and BYU alumnus) Pat Bagley. (Courtesy Sunstone, Pat Bagley, and Salt Lake Tribune.)

honor code council referral card

20. BYU’s honor code and dress and grooming standards are hailed by some as the source of the university’s unique, clean-cut environment and denounced by others as creating a culture of self-righteousness. One particularly controversial development in the mid-1990s was the short-lived Honor Code Council Referral Card, which allowed students to inform on honor code offenders.

beard card

21. Under BYU’s dress and grooming standards, beards for men are permitted only which medical certification and a valid “beard card.”

condom ad

22. Its conservative campus environment separates BYU from other college campuses. Controversies may arise when materials bound for more secular schools make their way into the Lord’s University. One such scandal involved this ad, featuring a condom, which was part of a national advertising insert in the school newspaper. The Daily Universe regretted the error.

rodin cartoon

23. Censorship scandals are a perennial feature of BYU life. Cartoonist Pat Bagley pokes fun at the school’s 1997 decision to remove pieces from a traveling exhibition of the works of nineteen-century French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Administrators justified their actions by appealing to BYU’s unique religious identity. (Courtesy Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune.)

aaron taylor cartoon

24. Most students, faculty, and administrators responded defensively to, or dismissed as insignificant, the AAUP’s 1998 censure of the school’s administration, as portrayed by cartoonist Aaron Taylor. (Courtesy Aaron Taylor.)