The Lord’s University
by Bryan Waterman and Brian Kagel
A Collision of Cultures: The Bateman Administration and the AAUP
[p.368]At the end of October 1996, BYU botanist Sam Rushforth had a dream. In it he and his wife, Nancy, stood beside a sick horse. Sam held a giant syringe of medicine that could cure the animal’s illness. Just as he stood poised to plunge the needle, Nancy stopped him. “Look, Sam,” she said. “Move away from the horse’s rear end. Sure, you’re going to cure this thing, but when you do it’s going to blast manure allover everything.”
Rushforth, the silver-mustached co-founder of the school’s American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chapter, environmental activist, and controversial figure in Utah Valley for more than twenty-five years, found some pleasure in the dream, a moment of lightness in a cloudy week.1 His colleague Scott Abbott, an associate professor of German who had left Vanderbilt in 1988 for BYU, repeated Sam’s story to friends that week, adding explosive imagery of his own: “I’ve been feeling that I’m holding on to a lit stick of dynamite,” he would say in the seclusion of his office, a Question Authority sticker taped to the wall above his desk. ‘‘I’m trying to gauge just how long I can hold it before throwing it.”
The last week of that October seemed as tense for members of BYU’s AAUP chapter as any week had during the group’s fragile eighteen-month existence. The AAUP’s goal of healing what they feared was an academically ailing university—the sick horse in Rushforth’s dream—seemed to be growing increasingly dangerous. On 25 October, after nine months of unsuccessful attempts by the group to get the university to recognize the campus chapter, the Provo Daily Herald, the principal Utah Valley newspaper, revealed that national officers of the AAUP had launched a preliminary investigation of BYU’s handling of the Gail Turley Houston case. The Herald story, based almost entirely on a month-old letter from the local AAUP to recently installed BYU president Merrill J. Bateman, explained that members of BYU’s chapter had requested an investigation by the national organization. It also quoted a [p.369]letter from Jordan Kurland, national AAUP associate general secretary, to Houston, in which Kurland expressed his initial impression, upon reviewing Houston’s tenure files, that the BYU “administration’s willingness and ability to stand up for academic freedom is weak indeed.”2
The quotes from Kurland in particular set Bateman on edge; over the previous weeks he had carried on a civil correspondence with Kurland, and had agreed to send the university’s side of the Houston story to the national organization. Kurland later told chapter members he was reading a cordial letter from Bateman outlining BYU’s willingness to cooperate when a telephone call came through from the president, furious over the Herald coverage and a Daily Universe article that had picked up the story. Bateman, not knowing that the Herald had quoted Kurland without his knowledge, was angry that Kurland had expressed an opinion before the investigation had been launched and threatened to report this “ethical breach” to the Chronicle of Higher Education. “How many of your people do you have here [at BYU]?” Bateman reportedly asked. Kurland replied that he did not know for sure. “Well, I’ll tell you,” Bateman returned. “You have eight people here. We have thousands of faculty who are very happy with what we’re trying to do here, and you have eight people who are causing us trouble.”
News of the exchange circulated quickly through the AAUP’s membership, whose governing board numbered eight but whose membership was larger than Bateman believed—approximately fifty and growing. (Reported numbers vary depending on the criteria used; participants in the group’s activities outnumber dues-paying members.) Disturbed by Bateman’s reported characterization of them as troublemakers, for the next several days chapter members debated how to respond. Many members were uncomfortable with the increasing divide between the chapter and the administration, which apparently saw them as enemies to the university. Only two months had passed since Bateman had faced accusations that he had plagiarized portions of his inaugural speech from a nationally prominent neoconservative author, and everyone assumed that he was still smarting from the experience (which had been reported, among other places, in the Chronicle of Higher Education).
Some members pointed out that Bateman’s anger was probably fueled by a misunderstanding: the Herald had retrieved the 24 September letter, which had included Kurland’s letter to Houston, from the local chapter’s Web site, but Bateman presumably believed that the group had leaked the information. Some expressed anger over other news from the previous week that Steven Epperson of the history department would lose his job after a failed stand-off with his bishop over matters of church attendance and tithing. Many welcomed the intervention from the national chapter, and most felt that a conciliatory letter to Bateman might ease the immediate situation. A few thought that silence would be a better approach, since such a letter would reveal too much about the level of communication between [p.370]Kurland and the local chapter, such internal deliberations kept the group preoccupied for over a week.
Forming a Local Chapter: The Evenson Case and the “Tyranny of Crackpots”
Although tension surrounding BYU’s AAUP chapter was at a high point early in November 1996, the previous eighteen months had not been peaceful either, The chapter’s April 1995 organization had been spurred by a call for members from Rushforth and Abbott: “To foster academic freedom at BYU,” they wrote in an open letter to faculty,
and in the spirit of contribution to the university we have made our life’s work, a group of faculty has decided to found a campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors. In 1915, several years after the economist Edward Ross lost his job at Stanford University because Mrs. Leland Stanford, Jr” didn’t like his views on the gold standard, philosophers Arthur O. Lovejoy and John Dewey met at Columbia University and formed the AAUP. Their purpose was to ensure academic freedom for university faculty members, and that remains the association’s primary goal today. During Ernest Wilkinson’s presidency there was an active chapter of the AAUP at BYU, and once again we feel the university will benefit from such an organization.3
The call was boosted by former English department chair William A. (“Bert”) Wilson’s memories of the earlier BYU AAUP chapte. The group, whose membership had included controversial history professor Richard D. Poll, had helped expose an administration-supported student “spy ring” that reported on classroom activities of “liberal” faculty.4 The earlier AAUP chapter had disbanded in 1974 as members began to feel more secure about academic freedom under Wilkinson’s successor, Dallin Oaks.
The BYU AAUP’s reincarnation in 1995 coincided with the unfolding of Brian Evenson’s case (see chap. 8), and grew directly out of the ad hoc committee on academic freedom that had investigated the firings of David Knowlton and Cecilia Konchar Farr (see chap. 6). In the same week Abbott and Rushforth circulated their flyer to test interest in the AAUP, Abbott presented a reading and defense of one of Evenson’s controversial short stories at a departmental luncheon.5 The group’s initial meeting on 6 April attracted twenty professors from across campus who selected a governing board and planned initial correspondence with BYU president Rex Lee. In response to the Evenson case, the list of issues they told Lee they would discuss included “the denial of due process—denial that requires facuIty members to forfeit the right to face accusers and forces them to answer charges brought by anonymous individuals who are themselves not held accountable for their own actions.”6
At a meeting of the school’s Faculty Advisory Council (FAC) that [p.371]month, questions arose as to the need for a local chapter of the AAUP if the FAC already existed to mediate between faculty and the administration, AAUP organizers, though, felt that the FAC, with no governmental capacity in university matters, might not be able to effect the changes and provide the protection they felt recent events warranted, Six members of the local chapter subsequently met with President Lee on 21 April to discuss the new group, Bert Wilson, the delegation’s senior member, presented Lee with the list of issues the AAUP planned to address, as well as with the campus chapter’s statement of philosophy and a more personal letter. The statement of philosophy, drafted by Abbott and German department chair Alan Keele, described the need for academic freedom in order to ensure a rigorous university experience: “When seemingly arbitrary and uninformed decisions are made and imposed,” it read, “students are denied the full benefit of a moral education.” As an example the statement cited courses from various disciplines that deal with the Jewish holocaust: “[S]een outside the discussion of the Holocaust or by viewers or readers unable to understand the texts on their own terms,” Keele and Abbott wrote, films and texts on the Holocaust “may be attacked on grounds of violence, nudity, insensitivity, blasphemy, and the like. Careful students, however, can emerge from their confrontation with these texts and the events they depict with increased moral strength and understanding. It is clear that this process can be interrupted or destroyed should these texts be placed off limits due to the objections of someone not involved in the conversation …. We will advocate responsible academic freedom,” the letter promised, “and support our colleagues when there are infringements.”7
Bert Wilson’s letter to Lee was more personable and in some cases more blunt-evidence of Wilson’s frustration following Cecilia Konchar Farr’s case. “None of what follows should be construed as demands or as threats,” he wrote, referring to the list of concerns the chapter would address. Wilson’s motivation for involvement in the AAUP, he continued, had to do with the impact of BYU’s damaged reputation both on students and himself: “Speaking for myself,” he wrote,
I am aware of our students being denied admission to graduate programs because they have attended BYU; I am aware of directors of graduate programs encouraging their students not to accept employment here; I am aware that some of our promising students elect not to return to BYU after completing graduate studies because they fear their academic freedom will be compromised; I am aware of denigrating comments made to BYU faculty by their colleagues at professional meetings; as director of the Redd Center [for Western Studies], I am aware that some institutions will not accept our support money because they consider it tainted. In spite of my occasional disagreements with administrative practices, these attitudes and actions hurt me deeply. BYU is my home. I have been affiliated with the place in one way or another since I showed up on the steps of the Maeser [p.378]Building in the fall of 1951, a terrified country-bumpkin freshman. I want the university to succeed. It has at times caused me considerable pain, but it has enriched my life and my family’s life beyond measure.8
The hour-long meeting between Lee and local AAUP board members was cordial, a balance between Lee’s guarded questions and the group’s own inquiries about the AAUP’s possibilities, academic freedom grievance procedures, and the Evenson case in particular. Wilson and Abbott dominated the discussion on the AAUP side. When Abbott asked for Lee’s response to the chapter’s organization, Lee responded, “That depends on what happens. If it follows the tone of your letter, great. … To me the formation of an AAUP chapter is innocuous.” Abbott made inquiries about the Evenson case, and Lee made it clear that the situation was beyond his control (“I was not aware of Elder Eyring’s involvement,” he said) and that he was frustrated by the press generated, he assumed, at Evenson’s request. “It’s not just Brian Evenson,” Wilson cut in, “but a category we are concerned with into which he falls. We do seem subject to the tyranny of crackpots …. Most of us here in this room have come to official attention via processes of this sort.”
Following a discussion of letters written anonymously—centered on Wilson’s belief that such letters are often not anonymous at first, but that church leaders and administrators protect the identities of the letter writers and prevent faculty from facing their accusers—the conversation turned again to Evenson. Abbott pointed out that the recent brown bag discussion in his department focused on ways Evenson’s stories addressed the violence of the Holocaust. The name “Altmann,” in Evenson’s title story, Abbott explained, was the alias of Nazi officer Klaus Barbie while he hid from authorities in South America. Lee responded that he had not heard of a Holocaust connection in Evenson’s book. “All I saw in it was extreme degradation,” he said.
“You’re a legal scholar,” Abbott returned. “Why should you see how to read it? Or why should Salt Lake [church headquarters] see how to read it? … If you want to talk about evolution and the Church, talk to Duane Jeffery, not me. But if you want to read difficult stories, talk to the scholars of literature. Every story in [Altmann’s Tongue] has a similar moral theme.”
“What about the story where the serial killer carves stars in the backs of his multiple wives?” Lee said. “There does not seem to be anything moral in that.”
Abbott responded that an English department faculty member had written an essay on the story. “It’s a very moral story to a formal reader,” he said, and the meeting ended.
The Bateman Era Begins: A New Ecclesiastical Endorsement Policy for Faculty
If the BYU chapter cut its teeth on the Evenson case, its real entry into confrontation with BYU officials would not come until the ailing Rex Lee [p.373]had stepped down at the end of the year and LDS general authority Merrill Bateman had taken over. Given the intense discussion surrounding academic freedom during Lee’s last two years, members of the AAUP and others waited nervously during the five months between Lee’s resignation and Bateman’s appointment, eager but apprehensive to see who would take the presidential reins. Some wondered if Lee’s replacement would continue to flush out “undesirable” faculty. Provost Bruce Hafen, for example, had recently warned Rushforth that in the future he would be increasingly uncomfortable with BYU’s direction; Rushforth declined to leave after BYU refused to let him take his retirement package with him. Given Hafen’s central role at BYU during the Lee years, some saw him as Lee’s natural successor; the more optimistic among proponents of academic freedom hoped the university would change directions and choose a president from the larger academy.
Bateman’s appointment, announced that fall, caused concern for one central reason: unlike any previous BYU president, Bateman was selected from among the body of the church’s ranking leaders—he was at the time the Presiding Bishop—which verified to some that the BYU presidency had moved, during Lee’s tenure, from a position of representing the faculty to one of defending the board of trustees. The appointment reversed another administrative pattern, which saw university presidents Dallin Oaks and Jeffrey Holland become church leaders after they left BYU. Prior to his calling as Presiding Bishop, the fifty-nine-year-old Bateman had served in a five-year appointment as a member of the church’s second quorum of seventy, two tiers below the church’s governing apostles. He had been released from that quorum to become BYU president, and some wondered if his release from the bishopric would mean that he was no longer a sitting general authority. Those questions were quickly answered by press releases announcing Bateman’s appointment to the first quorum of seventy, a permanent calling. “It gives a signal as to the type of tone we want as a university,” Bateman told the Universe regarding his general authority status. “The brethren are making a statement.” While this detail unsettled only a few, the unmistakable goal was increased church control over BYU, including academic freedom. Those who act as “advocates for the adversary,” he said, would be forced out.9
Several AAUP members wanted to reserve judgment until Bateman had settled in—indeed, some members of the management school faculty, where Bateman had served in the 1970s as a dean (when the school was called the College of Business), recalled him as open and generous. However, an episode occurring only a month into his presidency answered any questions about his priorities. On 8 February all faculty members received a memo from Bateman announcing that the commissioner of church education Apostle Henry B. Eyring—would annually ask each faculty member’s local ecclesiastical leaders if he or she were “eligible for a [temple] recommend.” Such eligibility, Bateman explained,
[p.374]has long been a condition of employment for LDS personnel at Brigham Young University as well as at other non-profit entities of the Church. In the past, each Church Educational System entity has developed its own method of periodically verifying temple recommend eligibility. In December 1995, the Church Board of Education and the Board of Trustees for units of higher education decided to unify and simplify this verification process.
Bateman added that, as had been the common practice, faculty who fell short of the eligibility requirement would probably be granted a brief period to set things right. Non-LDS faculty would meet annually with their deans to reaffirm their commitments to the university’s honor code and mission statement.10
Response to Bateman’s memo was swift. The Salt Lake Tribune ran a front-page account the next morning.11 Several faculty members affirmed their support to Associated Press reporters: “All the faculty and staff should be living that way anyway,” said Lee Braithwaite, an associate professor of zoology, summing up the feelings of many of his colleagues.12 Political science professor Ralph Hancock commented similarly to the Chronicle of Higher Education: “It’s a non-issue for me and most of the faculty, as far as I can tell. … I believe all freedom, including academic freedom, comes with responsibility. And both the freedom and the responsibility have their own religiously informed character here at BYU. I, and many of my colleagues, believe we are freer here than we would be anywhere else.”13
For many, however, the announcement did much more than formalize policies already in existence. In fact, some faculty recalled an incident several years earlier, in 1990, when Provost Hafen had asked college deans for nominations to a committee that would find ways to implement such a policy (and to discuss the issue of “those who have temple recommends but undermine the faith”). Nothing had immediately resulted from those discussions.14 Beginning in 1992, however, the same year BYU released its written policy on academic freedom, faculty contracts (renewed yearly) included a new, lengthy paragraph explaining that faculty were required to
accept, support, and participate in the University’s religiously oriented educational mission, to observe and support the behavioral standards of the University, including the Honor Code and Dress and Grooming Standards, and to further the University’s objectives by being role models for a life that combines the quest for intellectual rigor with the quest for spiritual values and personal character. Faculty who are members of BYU’s sponsoring Church also accept the spiritual and temporal expectations of wholehearted membership.15
The following year, in the wake of the Farr and Knowlton controversies and the implementation of BYU’s new Academic Freedom Statement, the new paragraph was modified slightly: “It is a condition of employment,” contracts now read,
[p.375]that faculty members observe the behavior standards of the University, including the Honor Code and Dress and Grooming Standards, and refrain from behavior or expression that seriously and adversely affects the University mission or the Church. LDS faculty also accept as a condition of employment the standards of conduct consistent with qualifying for temple privileges. All faculty are expected to be role models for a life that combines the quest for intellectual rigor with spiritual values and personal integrity.16
Bateman’s February 1996 memo, several AAUP members pointed out, took the matter one step further. The 1993 phrase “conduct consistent with qualifying for temple privileges” left room, they believed, for a distinction between public conduct and personal belief. In addition, the words “consistent with” suggested that an actual temple recommend or temple recommend interview—which would require a faculty member to meet a certain standard of belief—was not required. (This interpretation, however, failed to recall the 1988 firing of David Wright for his personal beliefs—not expressed in class-about the Book of Mormon.) Still, in contrast to the 1993 faculty contracts, Bateman’s memo was a significant, move toward regulating faculty according to private belief as well as behavior.
The first extensive rebuttal to Bateman Came from BYU AAUP board member William Evenson, Brian Evenson’s father. The senior Evenson, a professor of physics, had served as an associate academic vice president under Jeffrey Holland, had been dean of two BYU colleges, and had been Rex Lee’s choice as provost before church leaders named Bruce Hafen to that position. Writing a guest opinion column in the Provo Daily Herald, Evenson called the new eligibility requirement a “most ill-advised policy,” which “troubled and offended” him, even though he accepted the idea that “BYU employees [should] be faithful, committed members of the LDS church or supportive persons of other faiths.” His principal objection, he continued, was that the new policy reduced his “personal faith” and “relationship with [his] religious leaders” to a “matter of maintaining my employment.” Emphasizing “outward obedience,” he went on, “severely compromises the development of genuine inner spirituality.”
Evenson argued that a formalized monitoring system undermined an atmosphere of trust between faculty and administrators and gave undue administrative authority to local ecclesiastical leaders’ “wide range of judgments about [religious] attitudes and personal views.” He also pointed out the shift in language from “conduct” to “eligibility,” stressing that faculty members’ “private views are much more personal and less relevant for university employment,” and were “much more subject to arbitrary judgment and interpretation” from local leaders.
Evenson’s final contention regarded his memory of events surrounding the formation of BYU’s academic freedom document, when “university administrators were explicitly asked whether stake presidents would be given a list of BYU employees in their stakes in order to monitor their behavior,” [p.376]and professors had been repeatedly assured “that university officials would never ask ecclesiastical leaders to report on their ward and stake members … and that strict boundaries would be upheld between spiritual matters and university business. Unfortunately,” Evenson wrote, “the present policy goes against those promises.”17
Following the editorial’s publication, Bateman invited Evenson to his office on 5 March to discuss his concerns. According to Evenson, Bateman was “cordial and congenial” and sought primarily to assure him “that the policy [would] be implemented fairly and cautiously” under the direction of James Gordon, a BYU law professor and associate academic vice president. Importantly, in Evenson’s view, Bateman promised that, the memo’s language aside, “the standard remains a conduct standard, not a belief standard, and that he underst[ood] the difficulties … associated with judging shades of belief.” Evenson still maintained that the policy was unneeded, arguing that during his years in the Holland administration problems of faculty misconduct had been dealt with effectively on a case-by-case basis. Bateman responded that some troubling cases had survived the Holland years and still “persisted.” He acknowledged, though, a problem with faculty morale, which he said he intended to make a priority. Most significant in Evenson’s recollection was Bateman’s insistence “that he had no problem with my expressing my concerns publicly [and that] I have every right to say what I think about a public policy of the University.” While the two men agreed to disagree, the meeting concluded “on just as cordial a note as it began.”18
A few days later Evenson submitted his recollections of the meeting to Bateman for his input. His accompanying memo thanked Bateman especially for his “affirmation of the legitimacy of my public expression of concern about a public policy of the University.”19 Bateman’s response of 1 April, however, took exception to this portion of Evenson’s recollections: “You thanked me for approving your statements to the press regarding the temple eligibility policy,” Bateman wrote, maintaining the cordial tone that had accompanied their meetings. “If I remember correctly,” he added, “my statement was that ‘you did not offend me personally by writing to the press.'” With this phrase Evenson noticed a departure in Bateman’s—tone: “You should understand, however,” the BYU president continued,
that your actions are not consistent with the spirit of this university. In that regard, the first point to be made is that the policy you are criticizing is not a policy initiated by the University but one initiated by the Board of Trustees for the entire Church Educational System. Since the Board of Trustees consists of the First Presidency and other general authorities, the temple eligibility policy and the review procedures have come from them.
To reinforce the idea that a policy dictated by church leaders should not be criticized, Bateman included two passages from the writings of George Q. Cannon, a nineteenth-century Mormon apostle, which he said Evenson [p.377]would find “of great interest.” The photocopied excerpts had been faxed from the church’s historical department in Salt Lake City to the church’s administration building, and forwarded on to Bateman. The first statement had been quoted by Apostle James Faust in the church’s October 1993 general conference, in response to the “September Six” excommunications and the BYU controversies that year (see chap. 7). In it the nineteenth-century leader explained that
an honest difference of opinion between a member of the Church and the Authorities [may not constitute] apostasy [but that] we could not conceive of a man publishing these differences of opinion and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife and to place the acts and counsel of the Authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term.
The passage included the statement that honest differences of opinions, even when unexpressed, could lead to “the adversary [Satan] … [taking] advantage” of a person.20 The second passage included the statement that “one of the most dangerous symptoms of apostasy from the Church is speaking evil of the Lord’s servants,” and that “the spirit of true independence” follows those who “honor the authority” of church leaders.21
In a response later that month, ending the correspondence, Evenson stated that he had “no desire to be out of harmony with the Church” and cited, in defense of his right to disagree publicly with the eligibility policy, statements from church leaders—including Cannon—defending free expression in the church. The final quotation he included came from a former member of the First Presidency, Hugh B. Brown, a favorite of liberal Mormons, who said in a speech at BYU in 1969 and published in the Church News: “Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned about whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts.”22
The Evenson-Bateman exchange, eventually distributed widely in Mormon circles via the Internet, was one of two major immediate responses from AAUP members. The second was a letter from Bert Wilson to chapter members in advance of a 22 February meeting to discuss the new policy. Wilson expressed concerns similar to Evenson’s but in more personal terms, noting that President Bateman was a fellow-member of Wilson’s local congregation and had always been “kind, generous, and helpful.” Still, Wilson found himself disturbed not only by the policy but also by public implications from Bateman and BYU spokespeople that, in Wilson’s paraphrase, “those opposing the new policy are probably those not worthy to hold a temple recommend.” Wilson found this ad hominem approach unsatisfying: [p.378]“Of course, we want committed faculty members devoted to the gospel. That is not the issue here.” Rather, like Evenson, Wilson objected to the policy because it invaded the privacy of his religious devotion and because it betrayed administrative assurances given when the academic freedom document was under consideration. On the first point, Wilson wrote that “[t]he policy diminishes the satisfaction I, and I suspect others, feel in holding a temple recommend. I received my first recommend forty-two years ago, have held one continuously since then, and hope always to live worthily enough to do so. For me the recommend is a sacred document not to be sullied with any worldly concerns like job security.” On the second point, Wilson argued that essentially giving local ecclesiastical leaders control over faculty members’ continuing status could “place the professional lives of the faculty in the hands of individuals who often do not understand the nature of intellectual inquiry, and who, while they understand the need to balance reason with faith, may be hostile to the parallel need to balance faith with reason.” While most church leaders, Wilson continued, are “good, decent men,” some “have been hard-line ideologues who have exercised unrighteous dominion over their parishioners. If a faculty member, by the luck of the draw, happens to have one of these overbeating souls as a bishop or stake president, the faculty member is completely at his mercy.” Such instances could lead to job losses over intellectual and theological differences between leaders and members; worse, they essentially gave “administrative officials a handy means of getting rid of gadflies without going through normal review procedures.”
To conclude, Wilson returned to the confidential nature of temple recommends: according to church policy, the relationship between church members and leaders was one of legal privacy. As a campus bishop, Wilson had elected in all instances but one not to report errant students to the Standards Office, even though he said the university encouraged leaders to do so. Rather, he saw his relationship with ward members as providing guidance, changing lives, and allowing students to remain in school. Similarly, he wrote, “The sacred space surrounding me and my bishop as we discuss my spiritual life must not be violated.” The current policy mandated such violations. “[W]e are now moving,” he concluded, “toward the most unwarranted university intrusion into the most sacred parts of our lives that I have encountered during my many years at BYU.”23
Wilson’s last arguments hit close to home for at least one AAUP board member. Scott Abbott had for two years been without a temple recommend following a confrontation with his stake president (Keith Perkins, a BYU religion professor) over his September 1992 Sunstone magazine article, “One Lord, One Faith, and Two Universities: Tensions between ‘Religion’ and ‘Thought’ at BYU.” Abbott’s essay had criticized the religion/reason dichotomy that privileged faith over intellect. He had pointed to such ideas in the writings of current church leaders, three of whom sent letters chastising [p.379]him. Perkins had required him, in order to have his temple recommend returned, to cease participation and publication in Sunstone’s symposia and magazine, a request Abbott refused (see chap. 7). Although Abbott had received assurance from President Rex Lee that the situation would not force him from his job, it had prevented him since 1993 from being advanced to full professor. In addition, Lee had died only a few weeks after Bateman’s policy was announced, and many AAUP members wondered if a situation like Abbott’s would serve as a test case for the new policy.
Responding to Restrictions: BYU’s Accreditation Review and Requests for Help from the National AAUP
Bateman’s “blue letter,” as Bert Wilson had called the eligibility requirement and as it became popularly known, prompted the BYU AAUP to write to the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, whose team would arrive in March to conduct its once-a-decade review of BYU’s accreditation. The AAUP wanted to meet with the. accreditation committee to discuss breaches of academic freedom and, hopefully, convince the committee to offer suggestions to the administration on ways to improve BYU’s intellectual environment. The materials sent to the Northwest Association included information on Cecilia Konchar Farr, David Knowlton, Brian Evenson, Gail Houston, and another professor who had managed to keep her case out of the press but was currently heading off administrative inquiries into her professional and private life based on charges that disparaged her. Unlike the other four, this faculty member had successfully fended off official action and had resisted pressure to leave the university.
Through mid-March BYU AAUP members worked together to draft a report on the state of academic freedom, as well as a statement outlining specific infringements against female faculty and potential feminist hires. The 19 March statement accompanying the files, which the group sent to the national AAUP and to the accreditation agency, began simply: “BYU has, in recent years, not adhered to [several] principals stated in the Accreditation Handbook (1994 Edition) of the [Northwest Association].” In particular the group cited violations off our Northwest Association guidelines: that church owned institutions should provide “an atmosphere in which intellectual freedom and independence exist”; that “reasonable limitations” on academic freedom be “published candidly”; that “faculty security” be “implemented through faculty tenure provisions and safeguards for academic freedom”; and that a university “have as a first concern evidence and truth rather than the particular judgments of institutional benefactors, concerns of churchmen, public opinion, social pressure, or political proscription.”
In each of these areas, the AAUP chapter believed, BYU’s administration merited censure: “official statements and actions,” they wrote, “have increasingly threatened ‘intellectual freedom and independence,’ ‘reason-[p.380]able limitations’ are stated so broadly (Academic Freedom Document) that they are open to arbitrary and unreasonable interpretation, and faculty security is undercut by the knowledge that we can and have been fired or harassed as the result of ‘particular judgments’ and ‘political proscriptions.’” As evidence they argued that rather than publish “reasonable limitations,” the administration used measures like eligibility for temple recommends, which could be broadly interpreted and idiosyncratic. They also pointed out that administrators in key situations relied on oral policies and refused to put the controversial measures into writing. Cases like Cecilia Konchar Farr’s involved violations of an oral policy against pro-choice speech (she was notified of the policy only after she had violated it), and others had been censured for breaking another oral policy against participating in Sunstone symposia. The university could thus “declare to the outside world” that it had no official policies against pro-choice speech or participation in unofficial Mormon conferences, but privately professors could be punished for infractions just the same.
A particularly strong violation of Northwest Association guidelines, in the AAUP chapter’s view, regarded the limitation in the school’s Academic Freedom Statement and faculty contracts against teaching or publishing anything harmful to the LDS church. Although for the most part chapter members did not disagree with the university that some limitations might be necessary, they believed that the possibilities for broad and arbitrary interpretations of such phrases as “harmful to the church” or “fundamental church doctrine” were immense: “As things now stand,” chapter members wrote, “the administration can, on an ad hoc basis and without accountability, take action on any faculty member it wishes simply by saying that the faculty member’s teaching or writing is contrary to the interests of the church.” Examples included the censure of Brandie Siegfried and Gail Turley Houston, advisors to VOICE, for that group’s recent protest of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, as well as various cases in which sociology department studies had been suppressed because the administration or board of trustees did not want their results available to the BYU or church community. More general restrictions included the administration’s decision not to allow Laurel Thatcher Ulrich to speak on campus; multi-level hiring procedures that reject candidates with no explanation; and the administration’s willingness to take action against faculty members based on anonymous complaints. These situations, in addition to the Farr, Knowlton, and Evenson cases, had made it “virtually impossible to criticize policies determined by those who run the University without being branded ‘advocates of the adversary,’” in Bateman’s phrase from a Daily Universe interview, “and thus being defined as those whose actions seriously and adversely affect the University’s mission.”
The final issue addressed in the AAUP’s letter to the Northwest Association regarded the charge that those who desire increased academic freedom [p.381]at BYU actually want to “secularize” the school. This criticism had been implicit most recently in the high-profile invitation to speak at an on-campus forum to historian George Marsden, one of the most prolific critics of what he calls the “secularization of the academy.” Rather than simply present Marsden as one of a number of voices in dialogue on religious higher education, BYU had in recent years provided near-official endorsement for views such as Marsden’s. The university’s promotional material for Marsden’s address, “Can a ‘Real’ University Be Religious?” read: “There is much prejudice against religious perspectives as part of a legitimate academic outlook …. Religious universities wish also to be real universities and can legitimately adopt some of the usual rules necessary to be part of pluralistic academia. At the same time, a true pluralism should recognize the legitimacy of religiously defined institutions.”24 Earlier, BYU’s Academic Freedom Statement of 1992-93, drawing on the writings of Marsden and other conservative Christian academics and cultural critics, had declared that the “religious university constitutes an endangered species in today’s academic ecosystem.”25
Members of the AAUP, on the other hand, had come to feel that the rhetoric of religious decline was being used inappropriately to limit the freedom of individual faculty members.26 Further, the highest profile restrictions of freedom over the previous years had not involved expressions hostile to religion or to BYU’s mission, as administrators implied, but were themselves expressions of Mormon faith, though sometimes in an unorthodox fashion. The BYU AAUP concluded its case to the accreditation committee by stressing “that we share the desire to foster a climate in which faithful inquiry is possible,” they wrote, “and that our arguments are made in the service of the university and the LDS Church. We founded the BYU Chapter of the AAUP last year hoping to contribute constructively to a university to which we are devoted and to which we have given our best efforts over many years.” To reinforce the point they cited a chapter by philosopher and cultural critic Martha Nussbaum, whose forthcoming book on the ethics of the liberal university included a discussion of BYU and Notre Dame: “[W]e should be very skeptical,” Nussbaum wrote,
of the claim that religious institutions of higher education are in peril because they have followed the norms of academic freedom and merit-based promotion that are current in the secular academy. In fact, they are in peril to the extent that they do not do so. Hiring in accordance with religious membership seems a perfectly appropriate way to maintain a distinctive tradition; on the other hand, penalties for unorthodox speech and research cut out the very core of a university. Notre Dame is vital, and able to attract fine Catholic scholars away from secular universities, precisely because it respects their minds and gives them freedom, following both Jesus and Socrates. BYU was moving in the same direction—at a time when in principle it could recruit first-rate scholars from its own alumni and alumnae, given the scarcity of jobs elsewhere. The current crackdown on dissent seems little A Collision of Cultures [p.382]short of suicidal in an institution that appears to retain the ambition to be a University offering undergraduate and graduate degrees, and not simply a religious training program.27
The AAUP report to the accreditation committee was accompanied by a statement on “Limitations on the Academic Freedom of Women at BYU,” prepared by an AAUP committee. “Because Brigham Young University is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” the document began,
the Church’s leaders have largely determined the attitudes and practices of the university. Those leaders, as well as the university’s administration, are all empowered men in the Mormon culture who define right and good by male standards. The experience of women often calls those male-centered standards into question as incomplete or otherwise inadequate.
As a result, Brigham Young University has a history of suppressing scholarship and artistic expressions representing the experience of women.
Examples included Marie Cornwall’s censure for organizing a 1992 conference on the church’s Relief Society which included critical as well as favorable responses from Mormon women288; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s ban and a similar ban on LDS historian Claudia Bushman in 1993; the firing of Carol Lee Hawkins as director of BYU’s annual women’s conference; the firing of Cecilia Konchar Farr; the suppression of research on Mormon women by sociology and social work faculty; and the termination of the annual Alice Louise Reynolds lecture at BYU, which had been endowed by a prominent older Mormon feminist.
In addition, the report publicized for the first time a series of rejections of potential feminist hires, particularly in the English department: Barbara Bishop (Ph.D., UCLA), rejected in 1992 for her research on African-American women writers; Marian Bishop Mumford (Ph.D. candidate, NYU), told in 1994 that she would be hired only if she agreed to change her dissertation topic (the construction of sexual identity in adolescent diaries, including Anne Frank’s); and others turned down for research on Native American women’s texts and other feminist topics. “For several years,” the report concluded,
women candidates for faculty employment at Brigham Young University have been asked this question by the academic vice president: “If a general authority [of the church] asked you not to publish your research, what would you do?” It has been suggested to the candidates that they must agree not to publish in such a case. ‘Ibis condition of employment undermines the position of new women faculty members at Brigham Young University. To be hired, they apparently must agree to let male ecclesiastical leaders who are not trained in their disciplines have final authority over the publication of their scholarship. They are offered no review process to determine the fairness or accuracy of the authority’s request. Again, women are [p.383]instructed that they must suppress their own perspectives on their own experience or research if a male authority so directs them.29
With the files in the mail in mid-March, AAUP members sat back to wait for responses.
The Bateman Administration Sets Up Camp: “Preserve, Protect, and Defend”
April 1996 ushered in an anxiety-filled spring on campus, beginning with Bateman’s final letter to Evenson, which included the Cannon statements on apostasy. Rumors circulated that Provost Hafen would be called at general conference either as a general authority or church commissioner of education, to replace Henry B. Eyring, who had been named an apostle. The former turned out to be the case, and Eyring stayed on as the first general authority to serve as commissioner—a situation that paralleled Bateman’s joint calling as university president and general authority. Though few AAUP members were sorry to see Hafen go, they were alarmed by comments he made on his departure: “I think one of our challenges at BYU is to address the needs and concerns of women faculty and students,” he told the student newspaper. “Education really matters, but of course family comes first.” The comment was even more disturbing since it followed reports that President Bateman had made the same observation to a meeting of the Faculty Women’s Association a month earlier.30
On 5 April, the last day of their annual “Clothesline Project,” members and faculty advisors of VOICE were confronted in person by President Bateman. Gail Turley Houston’s case, which had been simmering for weeks, reached a boil on 18 April when she received final word that she had failed her review. Charges against her surrounded her feminist teaching, scholarship, and personal theology. (For detailed accounts of these events, see chap. 8.) These events, which sparked frequent conversation among AAUP members, were framed against Bateman’s initiation of the largest fundraising campaign in BYU’s history. “Rest assured that BYU is not just another university,” he had written in an April letter to potential donors. “It is an integral part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and one of the last remaining bastions of higher education that deliberately integrates secular and spiritual teaching.” He added in a postscript: “The endorsement of our board of trustees reinforces the importance that this university plays in building the kingdom. We must not fail in this sacred responsibility.”31 “Bateman also announced that spring his intention to raise the school’s enrollment cap by at least 2,000 students and to make the university more broadly available to non-students via summer courses and the Internet.32
Less than a week after Houston received notice of her almost certain dismissal, as AAUP members met for lunch at a local cafe, word arrived that BYU had passed its accreditation review with no serious criticism.33 Warn-[p.384]ing flags from the local chapter of the AAUP had apparently been ignored or dismissed. “All our work down the drain,” wrote one member to a friend. Only a day after news of the glowing accreditation review, however, Abbott received word from the national AAUP in response to the files he had forwarded to them. Interested particularly in the Houston case and another one, still in process, the national organization requested additional material. By the week’s end, BYU AAUP had mailed a package of extended files on Houston and the other professor, as well as on Farr, Knowlton, and Evenson. Energized by the possibility that the national organization would take an interest in BYU, chapter members set up resources on the Internet, including a chapter news line to keep members informed of daily developments, and members began working on a Web page where relevant documents could be made public.
As April closed, President Bateman delivered his inaugural speech at the university’s commencement exercises. His charge as president, as he understood it, was defensive—“to preserve, protect, and defend this institution”—a statement that would set the tone of his administration. Part of what he stood to defend, he explained, was BYU’s “distinctive character,” one that placed “[personal] character above learning” and made “secular learning” a “lesser value” than “spiritual development.” To stress his belief that this plan would only enhance BYU’s stature in the academy, he cited nineteenth-century church president John Taylor’s comment on the university: “You will see the day that Zion will be as far ahead of the outside world in everything pertaining to learning of every kind as we are to-day in regard to religious matters. You mark my words, and write them down, and see if they do not come to pass.” The most forceful part of his speech, however, outlined two major challenges facing the school: the first regarded the enrollment cap, which limited entrance to a smaller and smaller percentage of total applicants as the pool of potential students continued to expand. The second followed up on comments made in his fundraising letter: “[M]oral relativism,” he warned, is “spreading throughout higher education both in America and abroad.” This “radical relativism and skepticism,” he said a few moments later, “rejects any idea of truth or knowledge.” In response, he asked: “Where is Brigham Young amidst these transformations in higher education? Fortunately the board of trustees are totally committed to the pursuit of academic truth within the framework of revealed truth.”
Bateman concluded with an anecdote about the decline of religious education. “A few months ago,” he said, “three Brigham Young University professors attended a conference at Baylor University entitled ‘Christian Higher Education—Will It Survive?’” At one point, he continued, during a discussion about whether Baylor, Notre Dame, or BYU had the best chances of preserving its religious orientation, “the editor of a Catholic publication”—presumably Father Richard John Neuhaus of the neoconservative journal First Things (see chap. 10)—was overheard by one of the BYU profes-[p.385]sors to say that BYU would be the “only one to survive because it has not bought into moral relativism.” Bateman beamed. “What an irony—a Catholic editor at a Baptist conference declaring that the Latter-day Saint university would be the only one to keep its religious moorings.”34
Coverage of Bateman’s talk in the Church News focused on the statements about moral relativism.35 The topic had apparently become a chief item on Bateman’s agenda. (Indeed, critics had quickly dubbed him “Moral Merrill.”) In June the Provo Daily Herald reported that Bateman spoke on the theme to the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce. According to the report, he “said the consequences [of moral relativism] on campuses across the country have been twofold: a preoccupation with rights without an accompanying focus on responsibility, and the idea that standards should be relaxed rather than have anyone feel bad about themselves.” These trends, he continued, had “led to the practice of approximate spelling and proposals to do away with college entrance exams.” BYU, Bateman maintained, would be different. “We believe in truth,” he said. “I think for that reason BYU will play an important role across the earth for the next several decades.”36
Resignations and Accusations: The Bateman Plagiarism Scandal
AAUP members spent much of that summer responding to Gail Turley Houston’s dismissal, with activities ranging from a send-off tribute for Houston, on her way to the University of New Mexico, to an annotated response to her dismissal papers. In June the chapter sent a letter to Bateman, following no response to their previous letters, hoping to “establish a cordial working relationship and opportunity for dialogue with you as we had with President Lee.” Alerting Bateman to the existence of their Web site, they also offered service within university governance: “Because of our focus on academic freedom issues,” they wrote, “we believe our membership could especially help the university by serving on such committees as the University Faculty Council on Rank and Status and the appeals committee for academic freedom issues.”37 In July, when no response arrived and the appeal panel for Houston had been announced, the chapter drafted a letter to Academic Vice President Alan Wilkins and Associate Academic Vice President James Gordon to critique the panel selection process, arguing that the “Policy on Faculty Rank and Status” sets up a committee entirely hand-picked by administrators, and thereby “does not fairly represent the interest of the faculty member, only those of the administration.”38
That summer heated tensions reached peak temperatures in mid-August. On 13 August Brian Evenson officially tendered his resignation, his one-year position at Oklahoma State University having turned into a tenure track offer. ‘Though I respect many of the faculty and students at Brigham Young,” he wrote, “I do not feel that BYU fosters the academic freedom and exploration which are necessary to a university environment.” His objec-[p.386]tions included the ecclesiastical endorsement requirement for faculty members; a “hostile work environment” for women, especially VOICE members and other feminists, the treatment of Gail Turley Houston in particular; English department chair Jay Fox’s lack of support for Evenson and Houston; BYU’s willingness to respond to complaints from conservative students and faculty but not to give accused faculty members due process; and Bateman’s continual avoidance of the BYU AAUP. Evenson felt his complaints about academic freedom at BYU were
further complicated by the fact that a General Authority [Bateman] is now the President of the University. Many Mormons teaching at BYU believe it wrong to question decisions of a General Authority, and many will be unwilling to tell him when he is making poor decisions. I think that in his action and decisions Merrill Bateman has demonstrated both a willingness to further compromise academic freedom and a lack of understanding of academics and what it takes to run a university effectively. His comments and speeches have made me feel that he is either uninformed or wrongly informed on current trends in academia. I feel that under his leadership BYU can only get worse.
I would not be proud to remain at Brigham Young University.39
On 15 August, two days after Evenson submitted his resignation, and on the same day the national AAUP informed Gail Turley Houston it would indeed formally investigate her dismissal, Sunstone magazine released an issue containing an anonymous BYU faculty member’s indictment of the school. Based on a chronology of wrongs against the faculty and drawing heavily on material available on the AAUP’s Web site, the article concluded with a critique of Bateman’s inaugural address, citing in particular the passages on moral relativism. “One of the ironies of the speech,” the author commented, “is that during the very days his administration was deciding to fire Gail Houston for politicizing her classes as a feminist, Bateman gave [this] politically charged speech” based on a “simple-minded and self-serving account of the complex web of twentieth-century thought.” After quoting the section on moral relativism, the author continued: “Some may bristle at my calling this account ‘simple-minded’ … but when an ex-CEO of Mars Candy Company becomes a university president and mouths reactionary slogans of the religious right, having never read the thought he so blithely and second-handedly dismisses, it is not simply simple minded, but destructive to our university.”
The final charge received the closest attention. Bateman, the anonymous author alleged, had plagiarized the passages of his speech on moral relativism from a January 1996 First Things article by conservative cultural critic and historian Gertrude Himmelfarb. The charge was supported by side-by-side comparisons of Bateman’s and Himmelfarb’s comments. The article then pointed out the gravity of plagiarism charges in an academic [p.387]context and accurately predicted BYU’s response: “Undoubtedly, the public-relations apparatus of the university will explain it as an unfortunate oversight or as the mistake of an editor or as a computer glitch or as the result of mixed up notes (excuses that students invariably try when accused of plagiarism). The messenger, sadly Sunstone, will certainly be reviled.”40
The Sunstone article received wide publicity from the Associated Press and was picked up the next day by the electronic news service for the Chronicle of Higher Education.41 Faculty responses were, for the most part, hushed. (“I’m not as angry that he plagiarized that garbage as that he believed it,” one professor commented privately.) Many, of course, backed Bateman and criticized the anonymous author: “Sadly,” wrote law professor Lynn Wardle, “this incident only demonstrates some people are so committed to turning BYU into a bastion of post-modern ideology that they will stoop to inappropriate and exaggerated criticism to punish university leaders who dare to espouse a different vision.”42
BYU’s and Bateman’s own responses ignored the larger issues the anonymous author had raised about academic freedom and focused solely on the plagiarism charge. The initial reaction came through BYU spokesperson Brent Harker, who issued a statement that a “strict reading of style manuals would require that President Bateman enclose five of Himmelfarb’s phrases in quotes, and he did, in fact, cite her as an important source.” (At the end of the two questionable paragraphs, news stories pointed out, Bateman had quoted a three-word phrase and cited Himmelfarb for it, though not in the oral version; the immediate audiences, as the anonymous professor pointed out—including the reporters present who quoted this section at length—could not possibly have known the passages were the work of another writer.) Harker also acknowledged that Bateman “respects and agrees with the ideas expressed” by Himmelfarb, but suggested that the president had “tapped a large body of literature on the secularization of the university in which concepts expressed by Himmelfarb are widely shared.”43
Bateman’s personal response, which came in the university’s pre-fall semester 1996 conferences, was more forceful. Following an apology to faculty and staff for the “ambiguity and inattention which created the confusion,” and a “promise to be more careful in the future,” he offered a more extended explanation than Harker, minimizing his wrongdoing, then attacked Sunstone for publishing the article and assailed the author for hiding “behind the cloak of anonymity.” Furthermore, he claimed that “[w]ithin the university, anonymous letters regarding faculty or staff are ignored and returned to the person cited,” a claim the Salt Lake Tribune rebutted by reminding him of the Evenson case. Bateman also pointed faculty and staff to the 1991 statement on symposia by the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles, which discouraged members from participating in confer-[p.388]ences not sponsored by the church. He ended by charging that both Sunstone and the anonymous author wanted to secularize the university.44
If any question remained about BYU’s direction, Bateman’s talk and the remainder of the fall 1996 conference left no doubt. The theme of the conference, “Diversity among Universities and BYU’s Unique Role,” reflected the arguments of conservative thinkers, which would become commonplace over the next year, especially as the university defended Gail Turley Houston’s firing. BYU had a moral responsibility, the argument went, to resist the secular forces that have robbed American universities of their religious roots. Full academic freedom, moreover, could only bring secularization.
BYU’s role in a pluralistic academy was to defend—celebrate, even—its religious orientation, which depended on limiting academic freedom. In the long run, though, such an approach would help BYU gain academic standing, as the university transcended the mists of postmodern darkness and moral relativism. Apostle and Commissioner of Church Education Henry B. Eyring summed it up: Latter-day prophets had proclaimed, he said, that putting religious faith first will enhance [BYU’s] achievements as a university.” In his address Eyring repeatedly referred to the context for BYU’s current direction with phrases such as “the history of other universities and the prevailing views in much of the academic world,” “a deep understanding of universities as they have been and of this one as it is,” and “the facts of [the academy’s] present condition.”45 All these formulations, for Eyring, assumed secularization and hence cultural decline.
The portions of Bateman’s speech that did not relate directly to the plagiarism charge followed Eyring’s theme. Resisting secularization was “a topic that is at the core of this institution’s existence,” Citing First Presidency member James Faust’s belief that BYU could “remain a first-class university and not become secularized,” Bateman said that his previous optimism had transformed into wariness. “I now see the matter in a different light,” he told the faculty audience. “The divine mission of BYU is always at risk.” Faith in church leaders who form the board of trustees is central, he continued, including accepting limitations on academic freedom: “[T]he board wants the curriculum to be as wide and deep as decency allows but hopes the teacher sees the world through eyes of faith …. In particular, doctrinally sensitive material must be taught with the aid of the Spirit and paradoxes should be noted.”
In contrast to BYU’s spirit-aided curriculum, he continued, “there are many in academia who believe that it is impossible for an institution of higher education to achieve excellence if tied to a religious organization. They point to the secularization of Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Vanderbilt, and others to fortify their claim.” The difference between those who believe that these schools are better off without boards that interfere with academic freedom on religious issues and those who see the loss of religion as a cause for lamentation, Bateman concluded this section of his speech, “depends on [p.389]one’s faith.” If “one believes in the restored gospel … [and] in prophets, seers, and revelators as both the source of and stewards over sacred truth, then prophets have a legitimate role in defining the nature of any university they wish to establish and support.”46
The theme of faith in BYU’s trustees was picked up later in the conference by Alan Wilkins, who compared faculty submission in academic freedom restrictions to God’s request in the Old Testament that Abraham sacrifice his son, Isaac. Even if our views seem spiritually sound, Wilkins implied, a request from the board to amend or discard research should be obeyed as a righteous sacrifice, an act of faith. “Abraham presents us with a remarkable model,” he told faculty, “of how to respond along the way when [BYU’s] prophesied goals and our current righteous path [as individuals] don’t seem compatible.”
Earlier in the address he had referred to disagreements within the university community, especially the issue of integrating secular and spiritual learning. Wilkins recognized the “diversity of perspectives” about how to achieve BYU’s goal, and noted that the campus could improve in communication about difficult issues. “As I observe our conversations and listen to the stories we tell one another,” he said, “I sometimes worry that we forget Paul’s lesson about the body of Christ” (an ironic reference, some thought, from someone so involved in the recent “casting off” of Houston). Clearly, though, Wilkins saw feminism and other current points of academic tension as obstacles to unity: “Particularly in these sensitive times,” he continued, “when issues about gender, ethnicity, and even academic paradigms like postmodernism and feminism present different perspectives, we must model for our students and for our colleagues throughout the academic world what it means to work together.”
Wilkins addressed feminism in particular in language that strongly suggested the administration’s views on Houston’s case. “[I]t seems to me,” he said,
that we can too readily embrace or reject ideas based on political or emotional or other motives. My hope is that we can learn to carefully examine such ideas in the light of the gospel and the teachings of modern-day prophets. It seems to me that we can learn a great deal about the reading and interpreting of texts and about alternative perspectives from feminism, for example. However, there are also forms of feminism that would reject priesthood power or revelation through male prophets, or would teach erroneous views about the nature of God and his Christ.47
Wilkins’s comments most likely referred to the university’s accusations that Houston had endorsed prayer to Heavenly Mother and priesthood ordination for women (claims Houston said were made by taking her words out of context). Given Wilkins’s role in Houston’s firing, his comments did not go unnoticed by AAUP members.
Working through Appropriate Channels and the Steven Epperson Case
[p.390]As the fall semester got underway amidst the stirrings of a national AAUP investigation, the local chapter was met with increasing suspicion from the administration, On 24 September 1996 chapter members sent the letter to Bateman that would eventually be cited in the Daily Herald (as mentioned in the opening of this chapter). The letter alerted administrators of their support of the national AAUP investigation: “[We] are committed to bringing about more open and tolerant conditions at BYU,” they wrote, citing a decrease in BYU’s academic reputation as a result of the school’s “conflict with accepted and proven academic practice …. We must take action to reverse that trend.” They continued:
We believe it is in the interest of the university to obtain the opinion of [the national AAUP] whose main purpose is to further academic freedom at colleges and universities across the country. We have no punitive goal in mind. But we are committed as a group and as individuals to the long-term health and flourishing of BYU. Many of us have been here our entire careers and want nothing more than to see BYU reach its full potential as a university with deep religious commitments. This is possible only if we foster a rigorous ethical and academic standard in fact and not only in theory.48
In response to the letter, each of the chapter’s board members, whose names were listed on the letterhead, received an individual letter from Bateman encouraging them to air faculty grievances through the school’s Faculty Advisory Council (FAG) rather than communicate directly with him. In return, the AAUP explained to Bateman why the FAC seemed an inappropriate avenue for them. “We respect the role of the Faculty Advisory Council,” they wrote. “Many of us are or have been members of that group. And our collective experience convinces us that the FAC is not an adequate channel through which to communicate matters of this gravity and sensitivity.” In an appendix to the letter, members outlined their reasons, including a lack of access to real decision-making authority and a desire to protect the FAC from having to advocate or mediate for the AAUP.49
While this exchange with Bateman was in process, Jordan E. Kurland, associate general secretary for the national AAUP, was beginning his own correspondence with the university president. In a letter dated 1 October, Kurland pointed to Houston’s allegation that she had been discriminated against because of her sex. “Under the enclosed AAUP-supported standards,” Kurland wrote, “[Houston] should have been afforded opportunity to have [her] allegations heard by an elected faculty body” rather than by an administration-appointed panel dominated by administrators. “Professor Houston’s allegations thus seem to have gone unrebutted and untested at the university.” Kurland closed by inviting Bateman to respond to the con-[p.391]cerns he raised,. “[a]s we proceed to determine our further responsibilities in the matter.”50
By 17 October, when Bateman had not responded, Kurland sent a second letter, this one announcing the AAUP’s intention of fully investigating Houston’s case. “[T]he case,” he wrote, “poses unresolved issues of key importance under standards that have gained general acceptance in the community of higher education.” An ad hoc committee, Kurland continued, would visit campus within the next few months, then prepare a report for consideration by the national association’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure and possible publication in the AAUP’s journal, Academe. Kurland closed by stressing the AAUP’s desire to resolve the conflict without an investigation.51
The following week, on 22 October, Kurland received a letter from Bateman that had crossed in the mail with Kurland’s second letter. Bateman promised that the administration would indeed, within a matter of weeks, respond to Kurland’s questions about Houston. Kurland replied that they would postpone their campus visit if Bateman could provide the university’s response by 15 November.52
Within a few days, however, the Provo Daily Herald downloaded information on the pending AAUP visit from the local chapter’s Web site and released an article quoting Kurland’s initial letter to Houston.53 The following Monday morning the Daily Universe ran a similar story.54 The articles set off the chain of events described above: Bateman telephoned Kurland, characterizing the local AAUP as a handful of troublemakers; the local chapter deliberated how best to proceed. Most felt some form of reconciliation was needed. One line of thinking surrounded the possibility of following Bateman’s suggestion to approach the FAC, in part to demonstrate the chapter’s willingness to work with the administration. Richard Duerden, an English professor and FAC member, volunteered to explore ways to work through the FAC.
Other AAUP members felt less hopeful for any reconciliation with the administration, especially when, that same week, they learned that history professor Steven Epperson was being fired, the first faculty member to be dismissed under the 1996 ecclesiastical endorsement policy. Epperson had joined the history department in 1993, leaving a job as a curator at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City. When, in response to BYU’s newly announced policy, Epperson sought a current temple recommend from his bishop, Andrew Clark, he was unsuccessful. Epperson failed to meet requirements, Clark said, of church attendance and tithe-paying. Epperson explained that his family was currently divided in church activity: his wife and daughter did not attend, and Epperson joined them in regular volunteer service at a local homeless food bank, then attended sacrament meeting with his regular congregation (only one of three Sunday meetings for Mormons). Regarding tithing, he said that his wife, Diana, was currently [p.392]founding a non-profit music conservatory for children, and that she had asked him to forego tithing until the project was financially stable. He agreed, he told Clark, in an effort to preserve harmony within his family. Clark refused to endorse Epperson. In May, after Epperson had been contacted by BYU officials, he met with Clark again, hoping to reach a compromise. He would attend the additional meetings with another congregation, he told Clark, allowing him to spend time with his family, and he would resume paying tithing after the conservatory’s summer program was over in July. Clark would not budge, and furthermore refused to approve the ordination of Epperson’s twelve-year-old son to the priesthood (as would be routine at that age), because the son could not promise to attend all his church meetings. In a telephone conversation a few days later, Clark told Epperson that if he understood his “priesthood responsibilities” as a father he would “la[y] out the program” and expect his family to obey.55
The situation, in Scott Abbott’s estimation, “was the result of the inflexibility of his local church leaders.”56 A few weeks after his telephone conversation with Clark, Epperson met with Associate Academic Vice President James Gordon in hopes that the administration could intervene. Gordon said he could not interfere with a faculty member’s relationship with a church leader. However, several months later, in October 1996, Gordon told Epperson that he wanted to talk to the bishop. Epperson agreed, provided that Gordon inform him of the substance of the conversation. When Gordon asked for a meeting with Epperson on 22 October, Epperson expected to discuss the administrator’s conversation with his bishop. Instead, Gordon presented him with a letter of termination, effective the following August. Although administrators have routinely insisted that they cannot comment on such cases to the media, when the story broke the following January Gordon told one newspaper that administrators “will work with people if they are making a good faith effort,” implying that Epperson’s case involved either his own intractability or something beyond the situation with the bishop.57 To Epperson and others, this recalled circumstances in 1995, when Epperson had undergone his first university review. At that point Academic Vice President Alan Wilkins had questioned the quality and religious orthodoxy of a book based on Epperson’s doctoral dissertation, Mormons and Jews: Early Mormon Theologies of Israel, which had been published before he was hired by BYU and which, Epperson thought, would be excluded from his review.58 During conversations regarding the book, Wilkins had reportedly asked Epperson if he would agree not to publish future work if church leaders made such a request, or if he would retract this book’s conclusions if church leaders declared them doctrinally unsound. Epperson replied that his book did not seek to outline current church doctrine or policy, but to provide an historical account of early Mormon beliefs. Epperson had passed his review, but in September 1996, in the middle of Epperson’s stand-off with Bishop Clark, Gordon asked Epperson if he would send the [p.393]book to outside reviewers. Epperson agreed, but the results were never obtained, since only a few weeks later Gordon told Epperson of his termination based on the ecclesiastical endorsement policy.59
The irregularities of the case disturbed Epperson and others, including AAUP members. Protesting the firing several months later, Scott Abbott wr.ote: “I am not arguing for leniency for rapists and thieves and plagiarists. BYU has routinely fired staff, faculty, and administrators caught in acts of moral turpitude. No matter what their skills, a morally solvent institution cannot afford to have such people around.” The question in Epperson’s case, however, was not one of morality, but of raising “peccadillos to mortal sins.” He cited William of Orange: “Religion is being destroyed by the Inquisition, for to see a man burned because he believes he has acted rightly is painful to people, it exasperates them.”60
In early November 1996, as debate waned over the confrontation between Kurland and Bateman, chapter members learned that Kurland had received a letter from the BYU president—reportedly cordial—in which he reaffirmed his intention to respond on the Houston case, but asked for an additional two weeks. On 7 November the BYU AAUP chapter discussed strategies regarding the probable campus visit from the national organization and elected Brandie Siegfried (English) and Gary Bryner (political science) to replace board members Bert Wilson (English and director of Western American studies) and Bonner Ritchie (organizational behavior), who were retiring from the university.
The chapter also drafted a letter to Bateman, both conciliatory and frank. “Although it is frustrating to work for the betterment of an institution and to be ignored,” they wrote, “and although we can understand how that frustration could lead one to turn to the press to get one’s message out, we want you to know that we did not release information on the investigation to the Daily Herald reporter. In fact,” they continued, “we voted as a group not to make a press release about the case.” In addition to clarifying this matter, the group again alerted Bateman to the existence of its Web site and informed him that the chapter would try to work through the FAG. “[O]ur letters to you and members of your administration,” they concluded, “have been attempts to share our best thinking with you and to give you a chance to do the same with us. We hope that these efforts will bear fruit as time goes on.”61
Through November and December the local AAUP chapter worked on issues not directly related to the national association’s investigation. ‘While members debated a draft letter written by Sam Rushforth on the ecclesiastical endorsement policy, Richard Duerden brought up AAUP matters in meetings of the FAG. For an FAG meeting the first week of December, with President Bateman in attendance, Duerden submitted in advance two questions regarding AAUP concerns, noting as a preface that faculty morale was low-even lower, according to one longtime member—“than he remem-[p.394]bered it during the Wilkinson years.” Duerden’s first question regarded the survey of faculty morale completed as part of the university’s recent self study. “The public announcement of results,” Duerden wrote, “briefly noted good morale with some small areas of concern, but did not cite or provide the data in any detail.” Duerden’s request came in the context of rumors that the results had actually shown low faculty morale but had been manipulated to de-emphasize the problem. To this Bateman responded that the results should be made public, though neither he nor another member of his administration present knew who had the actual results. Duerden’s second question regarded the probable investigation by the national AAUP: “In the last FAC meeting,” he wrote, “the situation was characterized as a case of the AAUP’s disregard for religious universities.62 I fear that claiming discrimination may be too easy a way out: a way to avoid rather than face the issues raised.” Accordingly, Duerden said, he hoped the FAC would invite the campus chapter of the AAUP “to present a summary of the issues” for its consideration. Bateman responded that the FAC should listen to the AAUP’s case, and the FAC chair told Duerden that the AAUP simply needed to contact the head of the appropriate committee to be placed on the council’s agenda for a future meeting.63
On 9 December, with no materials from BYU forthcoming, Kurland informed Bateman that a two-person investigative committee had been named and would visit campus on 24 and 25 January. Committee members would be Linda Ray Pratt, professor of English at the University of Nebraska and past president of the AAUP, and William Heywood, professor of history at Cornell College in Iowa. Kurland invited Bateman to provide names of administrators and faculty the committee could meet to discuss BYU’s situation from a variety of viewpoints, and said the AAUP team hoped to meet with members of the English department in particular to discuss the Houston case. In addition, he requested meetings with Bateman and other administrators at the beginning and end of the visit.64
The AAUP Investigation
As 1997 began, the local AAUP—whose membership continued to grow after the investigation had been announced the previous fall-worked in committees and as individuals to prepare for the visit. The chapter’s plan for a limited press release-going only to the Daily Universe and the faculty newsletter, Y News-was thwarted by the Salt Lake Tribune’s scoop on 15 January. The article quoted Vice President Gordon as welcoming the group to campus and quoted Kurland as saying that, although he was “reluctant to editorialize” on the coming investigation, he felt that BYU’s “strong efforts to operate within the mainstream of higher education” implied agreement with the established rules of the academy. As an example, he pointed to the fact that BYU regularly offered courses in postmodern and feminist literature, which some conservative schools eschewed altogether. He also headed [p.395]off accusations of a secular AAUP agenda, that those BYU professors who pressed for increased academic freedom were somehow opposed to BYU’s religious mission: “While I appreciate BYU has a large constituency who would just as soon see everyone leave who doesn’t meet their standards of conduct,” he told the Tribune, “there are also some very strong and courageous people who consider themselves loyal to the institution and want to see it as a different place.”65
A day later, on 16 January, local AAUP board members Abbott, Rushforth, Evenson, Susan Howe, and Duane Jeffery met with Bateman, Wilkins, and Gordon to discuss details of the coming visit. During the meeting, characterized by one AAUP participant as “cordial” and perhaps “boding well for the future,”66 the administration provided the professors with the portions of the university’s response that did not directly refer to Houston. The two groups also worked together on a list of potential names and a general outline for the visit. Members of the campus chapter noted that this was the first meeting their board had received with the Bateman administration; the pending investigation might have been avoided, they pointed out, had administrators been willing to meet with them earlier. Bateman countered that he had always maintained an open door policy, but the group reminded him that their earlier requests for meetings had ouly yielded instructions for them to seek an audience with the FAC.
The university’s response to the pending visit was four-pronged, largely patterned after the argument of the school’s academic freedom statement. First, it argued that the AAUP’s 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure “permits religious schools to place limitations on academic freedom in order to preserve their religious mission and identity.” (As in the academic freedom document, administrators ignored a subsequent 1970 amendment to the 1940 statement that stated such limitation should rarely be necessary.”67) Second, the report summarized the Academic Freedom Statement’s defense of institutional freedom over individual freedom. Third, the report argued that the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges had been satisfied that BYU’s Academic Freedom Statement met the requirements of its limitations clause, which is similar in language to the limitations clause of the 1940 AAUP statement. Fourth, the university report countered Kurland’s suggestion that Houston had not been able to appeal to a faculty elected board by arguing that, in a case of rank-and-status review, the AAUP merely recommends rather than requires a faculty appeal panel.
Based on these four points, the administration’s report contended that the “denial of continuing faculty status to Professor Houston was consistent with BYU’s Academic Freedom Statement.” Citing the two instances in which, they felt, Houston had implied in public that she prayed to “heavenly parents,” the administration argued that “Professor Houston engaged in a pattern of publicly contradicting and opposing fundamental Church doctrine and deliberately attacking the Church.” Further, because the recom-[p.396]mendation not to continue Houston came from the Faculty Council on Rank and Status-composed of faculty members-the decision to fire her was in fact faculty-directed and not mandated by the administration. The report concluded with a statement, privately attributed to James Gordon, and which Alan Wilkins would repeat in a memo to faculty advising them of the AAUP’s visit: “If a religious university cannot limit a professor from publicly endorsing prayer to a God other than the God to whom we are commanded to pray,” he wrote, “then it cannot limit anything, and the limitations clause of the [AAUP’s] 1940 Statement is an outright deception.”68
As the weekend of the campus investigation approached, university officials, campus AAUP members (now numbering around seventy, including dues- and non-dues-paying participants), and the local press geared up for a confrontation. On Tuesday, 21 January, Alan Wilkins sought in a campus memorandum to answer questions faculty might have about the AAUP’s visit. Citing what he called the AAUP’s “ambivalence regarding religious universities,” he assured faculty that the “AAUP is not an accrediting body, and we are not obliged to follow their policies.” He continued by outlining the university’s response and claiming that Houston knowingly acted against injunctions that limit professors from “attacking the foundations of the Church that provides the University’s reason for existence.” In addition, he noted that BYU had posted the bulk of its response on its own Web site.69
On Wednesday, 22 January, BYU officials released to the public a twenty-eight page response to the pending investigation. The report was roughly half the size of that submitted to the AAUP and did not include the specifics of Houston’s case. The press drew more from Wilkins’s memo to the faculty than from the defense document. In an article running alongside a treatment of Epperson’s situation, the Associated Press summarized BYU’s case and cited Gordon’s doubts that the AAUP investigation would bring “major changes to [BYU’s] academic freedom policy.” The A.P. article on the Epperson case cited Abbott’s hope that the AAUP visit would help stem distrust on campus as well as the migration of faculty from the school.70
As members of the local AAUP drove the investigative team from Salt Lake City to Provo, headlines in the Daily Universe called attention to the day’s events. “The university is cooperating with the investigation,” one story quoted Wilkins, “because it provides us with an opportunity to discuss our academic freedom policy and because we believe every effort was made to follow that policy.” Gordon said the university welcomed the AAUP. Bruce Jorgensen, associate professor of English and an AAUP member, said he thought the university’s Academic Freedom Statement was flawed, allowing “some abuses that need to be addressed.” Other faculty supportive of the investigation refused to comment due to “circumstances within [their] department[s].” In a story that publicized the Epperson case to the campus for the first time, William Evenson said he hoped that the AAUP investigation would “help BYU become a better place,” and Gordon, after stating [p.397]that out of respect for Epperson’s privacy he would not comment on the case, added anyway: “A faculty member is not in trouble simply because he has a disagreement with his bishop.” His comment drew private responses from AAUP members that the administration seemed to hide behind confidentiality, ironically, as a way of casting doubt on a fired faculty member’s.71
A few hours before meeting with the visiting committee for the first time, Bateman staged an 11:00 a.m. question-and-answer session with students in the Wilkinson Center. According to student accounts, the president spent the first half of the hour answering routine questions about dormitory dining plans and campus crosswalks; only after a reporter from the Daily Universe asked for a statement on the Houston case did talk turn to the AAUP visit that would start later in the day. At this point Bateman turned to another administrator and quipped, “It took us half an hour to get here!” He answered the student reporter by outlining the argument they would make to the AAUP, stressing the point that BYU professors are not allowed to contradict fundamental church doctrine. He also drew attention to the fact that, in his opinion, an AAUP censure would not damage BYU, since other reputable schools (administrators would cite New York University and the University of Southern California, among others, throughout the weekend) had undergone censure and yet maintained their reputations. Furthermore, Bateman argued, the accreditation committee had re-certified BYU, including its academic freedom document, with little criticism, which demonstrated to him the justness of BYU’s position.72
Thursday afternoon began with a meeting between the local AAUP and the investigative team (Pratt and Heywood), followed by a meeting with Bateman, Wilkins, and Gordon. Later the team met with the Faculty Council on Rank and Status that had denied continuing status to Houston. At an FAC meeting that afternoon, chapter members finally aired their case before the council as well as the visiting team and administration. Three AAUP members—English professors Claudia Harris and Rick Duerden, and zoologist Duane Jeffery—made presentations on the AAUP’s history as a national organization and its function at BYU. Evening sessions included a meeting on BYU women faculty and academic freedom and finally a meeting with members of the Department of English and College of Humanities advancement committees who had worked on Houston’s review.
On Friday the investigation team met with the authors of BYU’s Academic Freedom Statement. Then the team heard from university professors on issues of hiring and retention, including charges that BYU’s multi-leveled hiring procedure prevented departments from hiring candidates of their choice, and a response from James Gordon. The Houston appeal panel met with the committee, followed by Houston’s own presentation. In the afternoon the AAUP team heard from faculty members and students who were to have pre-scheduled individual sessions with the committee. Several pro-[p.398]fessors wishing to express satisfaction with BYU’s current policies wanted an audience with the committee but had not scheduled time slots; in order to accommodate them, the committee agreed to see them in small groups rather than privately. (Some of these faculty members still charged later that the local AAUP had attempted to prevent them from speaking to the investigative team.) A panel on censorship focused attention on problems in BYU’s fine arts and humanities colleges and in course syllabi, and the team met again with members of the Bateman administration. The final interview the committee conducted was with David Knowlton, who had returned to campus expressly to meet with the AAUP. In total, the team met with about 120 BYU personnel over two and a half days.
The effects of the campus visit were not immediately forthcoming. Early the next week the Universe responded to the event with an in-house editorial and an article reporting faculty comments. The article devoted most of its space to professors defending BYU’s academic freedom policies. David Dollabite (family science) and Ralph Hancock (political science) both expressed the opinion current with BYU defenders since Ernest Wilkinson that BYU enjoys more academic freedom than other universities because it allows religious perspectives in the classroom. Hancock went further, pointing to a perceived collusion between the media and a minority of disgruntled faculty members. “[M]y impression,” he said, “is that [the number of dissatisfied professors] is a lot smaller than the impression that is given by the media. I wanted to do my part to give another impression. I don’t think BYU is perfect, but I didn’t want a certain dissident view to be the only view that is received by the AAUP and the media at another university.” The article did allow Scott Abbott some space to clarify the local AAUP’s intentions, particularly to respond to the repeated charge regarding a “secularizing agenda.” “We’re happy to be at BYU,” Abbott said, speaking for AAUP members. “It’s a religious university. Most of us are members of the church and we all chose to come here.” Abbott felt that the AAUP’s appreciation of BYU’s mission, however, does not preclude a desire for clarity regarding limitations. “We think that certain limitations are necessary, but they need to be spelled out exactly and clearly and narrowly, and right now they’re not.” Returning to the frequently employed explosive metaphors, Abbott continued: “It feels like we’re in a mine field and nobody knows where the mines are buried. If you happen to step on one, then you’re gone. How are you supposed to know where the mines are?”73
The Universe’s editorial spoke to an issue “[o]ften lost,” it said, in debates over academic freedom: the students’ role. “It seems as though there is the—perception,” the editors commented, that
students will soak up anything professors say or teach-the pitcher is merely filling the glass. The thinking goes, professors’ beliefs become the students’ beliefs, so all impurities must be filtered before they touch young students’ impressionable minds. To believe students will be so easily influenced, how-[p.399]ever, is insulting …. [BYU] students need to be taught; they do not need to be sheltered. “Protecting” them by not discussing theories or practices which may be controversial does not help students. Rather, it is a disservice—ignorance will not strengthen a person.74
The Universe’s view was not held by many students, however. A student letter to the editor perhaps summed up a majority response: “[T]he AAUP is not needed here,” wrote Jonathan Campbell of Allen, Texas, who had sent similar messages to individual AAUP members via e-mail. “The ‘freedoms’ of this university are limited by [the] scope [of] the spirit.” Campbell seemed angry with local faculty as well as with the national AAUP. “[T]oo often the faculty disrupt [the combination of] secular and ecclesiastical learning,” he continued, “by placing higher emphasis on the secular knowledge …. The professors who asked for the AAUP to investigate the recent firing of Gail Houston need to reflect on their actions …. I did not pay to come to this university to hear what professors know, but what the spirit may teacheth even of secular things.”75
Other responses trickled in. The Salt Lake Tribune recognized BYU’s right “to strictly supervise its faculty’s religious behavior,” but argued that the school’s “risky policy” on academic freedom threatened to damage “its national academic stature, its employees, its students, and the state … which relies on the church school to educate many of its leaders, teachers, and permanent residents.”76 On campus the FAC announced that its subcommittee on Academic Environment would review issues of rank and tenure as well as procedures for dismissing faculty members, and recommend changes to the administration.
The AAUP Report on BYU:
“A Widespread Pattern of Infringements on Academic Freedom”
In early May, the BYU AAUP, the university administration, and principal parties to the investigation received drafts of the committee’s fifty-four page manuscript report on the Houston case and BYU’s academic environment in general. Within a week the BYU AAUP had suggested informational and stylistic changes, and within three weeks the administration had returned its sixty-one-page response.
The report recounted in detail Houston’s history at BYU, including an extensive discussion of her third- and sixth-year reviews. It also summarized the arguments against Houston by the administration and placed the Houston case in a larger context of academic freedom at BYU, including material on Cecilia Konchar Farr, David Knowlton, Brian Evenson, and Steven Epperson. Its analysis of the Houston case and the university’s defense of her firing addressed three principal issues: the administration’s appeal to the “limitations clause” in the AAUP’s 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure: the role played by feminism and gender theory in the [p.400]Houston case and in general at BYU; and questions of procedure in Houston’s status review and appeal.
The report pointed out that BYU’s Academic Freedom Statement of 1992, which attempted to set reasonable limitations on individual academic freedom, had not been drafted or adopted until after Houston was appointed to the faculty. Despite the administration’s contention that faculty were aware of the statement’s limitations prior to their codification in 1992, the committee responded that Houston “was not given fair warning at the time she was appointed of any specific limitations on her academic freedom, nor was she warned that her feminist scholarship and teaching would receive intense scrutiny beyond that normally expected in the academic review process.” Furthermore, the implication that Houston was out of line for speaking at Sunstone symposia presented a difficulty for the university’s case since the administration had never—not even at the request of the visiting committee—been willing to put in writing a policy against participation at Sunstone. (In fact, contrary to BYU administrators’ oral instructions to deans and faculty members, the administration maintained in response to the AAUP’s draft report that the issue in Houston’s case was the content of her speech, not where it was delivered.) The committee further found that the administration’s argument that Houston had contradicted fundamental church doctrine and attacked the church was unfounded. Many of the actions Houston was punished for the Sunstone panel and the white roses campaign, for example-were too limited in scope and audience to warrant the administration’s claim that she had “enervated the very moral fiber of the university.” And neither of Houston’s public references to Mother in Heaven, according to the committee’s draft report, could be reasonably construed as “public advocacy” for prayer to a heavenly mother. On the issue of whether her statements had “contradict[ed] or oppose[d], rather than analyze[d] or discuss[ed] fundamental Church doctrine or policy,” the committee expressed its opinion that these limitations are “inadequately specific.” BYU’s Academic Freedom Statement, the committee reported, “provide[s] no guidelines” for distinguishing between contradicting and analyzing. Further, by specifying that BYU faculty cannot “deliberately” attack the church or its leaders, the Academic Freedom Statement introduces the question of motivation, which is difficult to ascertain. “The investigating committee,” they concluded, “believes that decisions on retention and advancement should be based on assessment of academic performance rather than on perception of motive.”
On the issue of feminism and gender theory, the committee found that the “extent to which the BYU administration may have acted against … Houston because of displeasure with her feminist approach, her forthright style, and her teaching and research on the construction of gender” raised significant concerns, since such topics traditionally “fall within the ambit of academic freedom.” Of particular concern was the frequency with which [p.401]feminist faculty reported being chastised for even a few negative remarks from students about their “feminist agenda.” “A central purpose of academic freedom,” the report argued, “is to protect faculty members whose ideas and subject matter may be ‘disquieting’ to students and to the wider community who are not professionally familiar with these teachings.” By “[d]istorting [Houston’s] teaching and research record to bolster suspicions about the orthodoxy of her views about Mother in Heaven or the Church’s male hierarchy,” the report continued, the administration had taken “precisely the kind of pernicious appropriation of academic work to serve nonacademic concerns that academic freedom is designed to prevent.”
Finally, on matters of procedure, the committee argued that the administration acted wrongly by inserting extraneous material into Houston’s file late in her review, planning to use it as grounds for her dismissal. The committee also disapproved of “the method of selection and the composition of the members of the University Faculty Council and the appeal council.” These groups “can hardly be construed as a representative faculty body,” the committee reported, since membership was determined entirely by administrators and since they were chaired by associate academic vice presidents. This administrative bias accounted, the committee felt, for the reversal of the recommendations made by department and college committees. “[F]or over four decades,” the committee declared, “AAUP has held strongly to the position … that allegations of academic freedom violation in no reappointment call for a hearing before an elected faculty body.” BYU’s failure to follow this recommendation prevented Houston from receiving a “fair hearing.”
“The case of Professor Houston,” according to the report, “along with those of Professors Farr, Knowlton, Evenson, and Epperson, persuades the investigating committee that BYU’s Statement on Academic Freedom provides little guidance to the faculty about specific limitations to academic freedom . … Instead of being based on principles of intellectual freedom or doctrinal policies of the Church,” the committee continued,
academic freedom at BYU strikes the investigating committee as often subject to the political concerns of Church officials who worry about new philosophical perspectives that seem to disagree with tenets of Mormonism and about outspoken faculty members whose extramural utterances might embarrass the church …. Much more than an isolated violation of academic freedom, the investigating committee’s inquiries into complaints at BYU have revealed a widespread pattern of infringements on academic freedom in a climate of oppression and fear of reprisals.
To demonstrate the extent to which administrators monitor faculty behavior, the report recounted an event involving creative writing professor and AAUP board member Susan Howe, which took place shortly before the January investigation began:
[p.402][I]n the week before the investigating committee was to arrive, Professor Susan Howe … was seen talking to an unidentified man with a ponytail. [The violation of BYU’s grooming standards signaled the person’s outsider status.] Academic Vice President Alan Wilkins inquired of Chapter President Scott Abbott about the man’s identity and whether the AAUP committee was secretly on campus. Professor Howe wrote to Vice President Wilkins objecting to the inquiry, and he responded by letter of January 29, defending his action but assuring her that “I do not intend to punish you for what seems a misunderstanding.”
The anecdote embodies much of the suspicion and tension, the committee argued, that “adversely affect the climate for academic freedom at BYU.”77
The University’s Response: “BYU Will Remain True to Its Intellectual and Spiritual Mission”
In August former BYU student Bryan Waterman’s presentation at the 1997 Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium (based on a version of this chapter) cited the AAUP’s draft report. Associated Press reporter Vern Anderson covered the session and filed a news story that used Waterman’s presentation as context for early publicity of the AAUP’s findings. As a lead to his story, Anderson included an anecdote not found in Waterman’s presentation but which had been circulating among observers of BYU for several months. “Brigham Young University President Merrill Bateman,” Anderson reported, “had pulled out all stops to recruit David Babbel, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School [of Business].” Babbel, respected in his field, was also a Mormon bishop—“just the sort of exemplar Bateman wanted for a distinguished professorship at BYU’s business school.” Babbel rejected Bateman’s offer of a position, though, the A.P. article continued, for two reasons: his objection to using one’s “temple worthiness” as a job requirement, and his dismay over BYU’s climate for academic freedom.78
Anderson’s article, the remainder of which focused on the AAUP’s draft report, provoked an angry response from BYU’s president Bateman during the university’s fall conference later that month. After reminding his audience that “our role as a religious institution [has] been challenged during the past year” by the AAUP, Bateman turned to press coverage anticipating the association’s report. The Babbel anecdote in Anderson’s article, Bateman asserted, typified “misstatements that are being made about the University.” Citing Anderson and Waterman by name (and incorrectly implying that Anderson had taken the Babbel anecdote from Waterman’s paper), Bateman read from a letter he had received from Babbel regarding the news story. “It was with horror that I read an A.P. article by Vern Anderson on BYU’s academic freedom,” Babbel had written. “I have never been contacted by him, nor by Bryan Waterman, nor had I ever heard of either of them prior to reading the article.” Babbel continued that he found it “de-[p.403]plorable to be co-opted into somebody’s ‘grandstanding’ campaign” and characterized the article and Sunstone presentation as part of “an unremitting barrage of screaming accusations.” Specific errors he identified in the account included the idea that Bateman “pulled out all stops” to recruit him, and that a position was offered to him. “I was never offered a position at BYU,” he wrote, “only an opportunity to apply for one.” Bateman said that he had met with Babbel in the intervening weeks, then declared:
Mr. Anderson’s story is typical of other press stories dealing with BYU personnel issues which have appeared in recent years. The University does not conduct its business in the press; consequently, articles dealing with personnel issues are biased in favor of those who do seek out reporters and use the press. Occasionally, we will comment on a report if it does not require us to reveal confidential information or if the individual in question has released the pertinent data. Most of the time, however, little or no information is provided by the University and the amount of truth published is one-half or less. The stories generally are embellished well beyond the facts and are used to distort University policies and actions …. Part of the reason for misstatements made about BYU is that many people are opposed to BYU’s mission and have an agenda to undermine it [by employing] the absolutist position of the secularists in higher education.79
In a follow-up story a week later, Anderson wrote: “For the public record, David Babbel says he isn’t coming to Brigham Young University because his wife won’t let him. His private reasons,” he continued, “are more complicated, but he intends to keep them private.” Though his initial A.P. story had been, according to professional standards, based on two independent sources, Anderson reported (in an indirect retraction) that both Babbel and Bateman had been on vacation when the initial story broke and had not been available for comment. In an interview following his university conference address, Bateman had told Anderson: “You know, I know who’s feeding you and I’m just disappointed that you take in everything they say. It’s just really a shame.” (A year earlier, as recounted above, Anderson had broken the story regarding plagiarism charges against the university president.) Anderson’s follow-up article also explained that Babbel, in an interview following Bateman’s conference address, had acknowledged that BYU had inquired about his interest in heading up a new $5 million research center. But funding for the center remained incomplete, and Babbel, during a chance meeting with Bateman in New York, discussed instead the possibility of Babbel applying for an endowed chair. After talking to over a dozen BYU faculty members, Babbel had declined the offer to apply for the post, though he did not give Anderson the reasons for his decision. He was approached later by the dean of BYU’s Marriott School of Management, encouraging him again to apply for the chair, but he responded that he had already given Bateman his answer. Babbel told Anderson his sources had “heard [from Babbel] what they wanted to hear, or heard the partial things [p.404]I may have told them. Because I didn’t give them everything. I just told them a few things.” In the article, Steven Epperson, cited as “a longtime family friend of the Babbels [who] was a casualty of the ecclesiastical endorsement policies,” said that Babbel had been torn between a desire to serve his religious community by coming to BYU and other concerns regarding his family, academic freedom, and the ecclesiastical endorsement policy. “It’s like all of us who accepted or contemplated accepting employment at BYU,” Epperson said. “We all have really good academic training. We have all been devoted members of the church and we’ve wanted to come there and … make BYU a great university.”80
In addition to Bateman’s response to advance press coverage of the AAUP report, other speakers at the 1997 university conference responded to the January investigation. In particular, Academic Vice President Alan Wilkins castigated faculty members who “invite outside groups to pressure the university to move away from its charted course to become a Zion university.” Such “outsiders,” he said, “don’t understand or believe in the ‘ship’ we are trying to construct …. Their reports frequently fail to capture the kind of consecrated faith and obedience to prophets that characterizes this faculty …. They can thus easily be open to manipulation by the few who would feed them half-truths.” He continued:
When we use outside agencies to try to persuade others against, say, a temple eligibility standard, we are on dangerous ground. These tactics invite the spirit of contention and damage our relationship with prophets of God …. To fight against [the temple eligibility requirement], especially publicly, is to fight with God’s prophets and will certainly harm our attempts to become a Zion university …. [R]ighteous influence attempts are made with humility before the Lord’s anointed.
Wilkins also asserted that faculty members’ individual academic freedom would be, with “few” exceptions, protected. “A faculty position at BYU should not be in danger because one differs with prevailing wisdom in a discipline or in Marmon culture. However, if we are to become a Zion university, such individual freedom comes with the responsibility to pursue learning with faith and to honor prophets as well as the different gifts of colleagues.”81
BYU’s more specific response to the AAUP report, which was published a few weeks later, came in two forms—a three-page addendum to the AAUP report, and a memo sent to faculty and staff—asserting that the 1940 Statement allows religious institutions to limit freedom; that all institutions limit freedom in some way; and that BYU should be able to limit freedom as it sees fit. Houston’s references to Heavenly Mother and restrictions on Mormon women’s speech and belief constituted “an extensive pattern of publicly contradicting and opposing fundamental Church doctrine and
Deliberately attacking the Church.” She had been so warned at her third-[p.405]year review and should have known better. The administration tried to discredit the AAUP report in general by claiming that it “contains so many serious misstatements and omissions that it is impossible to address them in this brief response.”
New to the document was an argument based on the AAUP’s recently published guidelines on its 1940 Statement. The guidelines, BYU argued, cited Catholic institution Gonzaga University’s academic freedom statement, which holds that “Intelligent analysis and discussion of Catholic dogma and official pronouncements of the Holy See on issues of faith and morals is encouraged,” though “open espousal of viewpoints which contradict explicit principles of Catholic faith and morals is opposed to the specified aims of this University.” BYU administrators argued that the language of this statement, which AAUP guidelines cited approvingly, was “strikingly similar” to BYU’s. The AAUP had addressed this objection in its report, however, by arguing that papal pronouncements constitute a clearer statement of fundamental Catholic faith than do similar pronouncements from Mormon leaders. “[E]xplicit principles” in the Gonzaga document, in other words, is “more directed to the text of [ Catholic] Church documents and thus much less open to differing interpretations than is BYU’s use of ‘fundamental,’” which can be applied to any situation or utterance as BYU administrators see fit. Moreover, the AAUP countered, BYU statement’s prohibition of expression that “seriously and adversely affects the University or the Church” is too “open-ended,” and “gives faculty members insufficient guidance about what additional limits may be imposed on them.”82
Shortly before the AAUP published its report, BYU faculty received an other memo from Alan Wilkins. It addressed questions such as “What is the AAUP and what is the effect of the report?” and “What is the AAUP’s stance toward religious colleges and universities?” The AAUP (which, the administration notes, comprises “[l]ess than 5% of faculty members in the U.S.”) represents faculty at some institutions “as a labor union.” The AAUP has a tradition, Wilkins continued, of “continuing condescension toward religious colleges and universities,” and one scholar has even “written that the AAUP’s definition of academic freedom could remove the distinct identities of church-related institutions.” Another critic, the memo said, finds the AAUP “insensitive to the need for outsiders to avoid taking sides and second-guessing religious authorities in internal religious matters.”
To the question “Has BYU violated academic freedom?” Wilkins answered a decisive “No.” Warning that some details of Houston’s case would be commented on publicly by the university, he argued that this was inevitable, since “Professor Houston has gone to such great lengths to make her case public.” In conclusion, he argued that “BYU rejects the AAUP’s goal to impose” what he called “a secular model on religious colleges and universities.” “BYU will remain true to its intellectual and spiritual mission,” he affirmed. “Under the inspired direction of our Board of Trustees, BYU will [p.406]continue to provide an education that is spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, and character building, and that leads to lifelong learning and service.”83
In response, the BYU AAUP sent a memo of its own to faculty and staff to explain better the intentions of the campus chapter and the national organization. After two years of conflict with the administration, chapter members had taken on an increasingly terse tone. “Concerned members of the BYU faculty,” they explained, “repeatedly attempted to initiate dialogue between faculty and administration about what we saw as a series of academic freedom violations.” When no discussion was forthcoming—indeed, “when accusations of disloyalty were the only answers to reasoned arguments”—the chapter sought intervention from the national organization. “The response of the BYU administration,” they continued, “has been deeply disappointing to us. Where we had hoped for a productive discussion of academic freedom questions at BYU, administrators have denied that there is any problem. Instead of addressing the issues, they have attacked the messenger. The BYU administration has painted the national AAUP as an enemy of religion and the local members, by implication, as disloyal citizens. This is not a positive approach to problem solving.” In an attached statement that explained the situation in greater detail, the local AAUP argued that the administration’s characterization of the national AAUP as bent on destroying religious education “manifests a certain paranoia.” In response to these charges, the local AAUP pointed to several recent articles in Academe on the topic of academic freedom in religious institutions, some of which argued “for the place of religion in American higher education.” In addition, the AAUP would be sponsoring in late October a conference on religion and academic freedom, including conservative critics of the academy such as George Marsden. Scott Abbott would speak on the experience of the BYU AAUP, but BYU had declined an invitation for Jim Gordon to attend. “How then,” the memo asked, “knowing that the most vigorous and many-sided current debate on the issues of religion in higher education and religious institutions and academic freedom is being sponsored by the AAUP, can the BYU administration accuse the AAUP of a secularizing agenda?” In the face of declining national prestige and attacks from all sides, including comments from the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges about low faculty morale, “How can the BYU administration continue to claim that they don’t lose any sleep over such reports? How can they continue to blame the messengers? How can they continue to argue that the reasoned judgments against them are from people who are/’ in Wilkins’s words, ‘‘‘antagonistic to the University mission’?”84
Response on campus to the published report varied. Administrators tried to downplay the report’s potential impact. “The AAUP is not an accrediting body,” Jim Gordon told the Universe. “[I]t is an advocacy organization [p.407]and has a history of antipathy toward religious institutions,” he said, adding that the report would have little effect on the school’s reputation. He told other reporters that the report was “full of inaccuracies,” but refused to elaborate since the school, he said, does not “conduct our business in the press.”85 One Universe headline a day after the report was released announced: “Students not troubled by AAUP’s decision,” though several of the students interviewed balanced their support for BYU and the church with fears that “student morale could go down.” One student, the article reported, “said she thinks employers may look at the AAUP’s opinion as a reason not to hire BYU students, but she thinks church members will not pay any attention to it.”86 Not all students were so conflicted. One wrote in a letter to the editor that “some people in this world”—presumably the AAUP—“would be well served by a good smack.”87 Another wrote that “I have seen friends at secular universities being arrested, wasting away their minds in drugs and promiscuity, and entering the job market with very little sense of character and honor to offer,” which led him to “appreciate the atmosphere here.” He wondered why “people choose to study or to teach here, when they don’t intend to adhere to the principles that embody the mission of this university,” adding that “the times I’ve been most prone to challenge authorities have been when I’ve felt guilty and ashamed of things I’ve done or unable to do what those figures have asked of me.”88
Some students questioned the administration’s position, however. Although “the AAUP’s findings in the Gail Houston case have not concerned a majority of students,” wrote Rogan Ferguson, a senior art major, “they definitely should.” Ferguson, who said he had accessed many of the documents from Houston’s case on the local AAUP’s Web site, felt that “the administration has been misleading at best in its representation of Sister Houston’s character.” In particular he wrote that “only by misinterpreting her words could one accuse her of ‘publicly endorsing prayer to Heavenly Mother.’ … [H]er actions are no different than when we sing the words to [the hymn] ‘Oh [sic] My Father’ which is prayer for us and visualize[s] the love and existence of both of our heavenly parents. By the administration’s interpretation of [Houston’s comments], any of us who has ever felt the Spirit of God while imagining out future reunion with our heavenly parents is as guilty as sister Houston of worshipping Heavenly Mother.”89 Jonathan Hart, opinion editor of Student Review, wrote that by “attempting to publicly reduce the real status and importance of the AAUP and accuse it of being an outside liberal organization with an anti-BYU agenda, the administration can easily rally the support of the campus. Unfortunately, the AAUP is not what the administration says it is and there are real problems that could be dealt with here.” He warned students who had professed apathy toward the report: “The AAUP’s investigation will be taken into account and will be reflected in our school’s national reputation. And this affects the value of YOUR diploma.”90
[p.408]In the wake of the report’s publication, local AAUP members met on 22 September to discuss the report and its impact on the campus. Reporting to chapter members who did not attend, Scott Abbott wrote that “[a]lthough the administration has repeatedly framed the issue as a battle between the spiritual and the secular, the real question is just what kind of religious university we want to be. Will Notre Dame be our model? Are Liberty Baptist and Oral Roberts more like what we want?” He added that members had resolved to continue dialoging with colleagues and administrators and to resolve concerns from those who might perceive their actions or those of the national organization as hostile. “As explained in our memo [to faculty],” Abbott affirmed, “the AAUP is anything but an enemy to religious institutions.”91
The results of the investigation, together with three years of local AAUP interaction with BYU administrators, suggest to some (as the Salt Lake Tribune editorialized in January 1997) that BYU is caught between conflicting institutional goals, a struggle mirrored in the clash of cultures between local and national AAUP and the BYU administration. As Jordan Kurland and others have repeatedly argued, BYU wants to compete in the national academy, and that desire brings with it exposure to academic subject matter, such as postmodernism and feminism, that some students, parents, faculty, administrators, and board members may find, for whatever reason, offensive. But by aiming to compete as an institution of higher education, BYU implicitly agrees to follow the standard procedures of the academy, including protecting academic freedom and offering fair procedures to faculty accused of violating stated limitations. Indeed, as the AAUP’s operating guidelines on the 1940 Statement of Principles suggest, only schools that seek such “recognition as seats of higher learning” are “subject to the academic freedom provisions of the 1940 Statement, a breach of which may issue in censure.”92 By authorizing the investigation, in fact, the AAUP recognized BYU’s goal to be academically competitive. BYU’s long-term response will reveal if the university wants to remain “without qualification as an institution freely engaged in higher education” or become one in which “free inquiry is subordinated to a religious (or some other) mission.”93
The history of the AAUP’s interaction with BYU also suggests an interpretation of recent events that differs slightly from the school’s self-perception as providing a uniquely Mormon atmosphere. Specifically, the administration’s reliance on arguments concerning the decline of religious education suggests not only a retrenchment designed to protect Mormon identity, but an alliance with broader conservative forces in the academy and in the culture at large. The result, as discussed in the concluding chapter, has been what some see as the institution of political and intellectual orthodoxy under the guise of fundamental religious beliefs, an event these observers feel is at odds with the ideals of both the modern university and the founding principles of the LDS church.
1. For background on Rushforth, see Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Botanist Greets Academic, Not Religious, Scrutiny,” Salt Lake Tribune, 24 Oct, 1992, which notes two decades’ worth of controversies Rushforth had spawned over topics such as evolution, birth control, and homosexuality. Most recently he had come under attack from the local John Birch Society for a speech to the World Federalist Society on population control.
2. Mark Eddington, “BYU Group Asks for Investigation,” Daily Herald, 25 Oct, 1996. Unless noted otherwise, copies of all correspondence and documents cited in this chapter are in possession of the authors. ‘Where conversation or content is not attributed, informants’ names are withheld. Several of the documents cited are available on the BYU AAUP Web site, http://bioag,byu,edu/botany/rushforth/www/aaup/aaup,htm.
4. The most complete account of the student spy ring is Gary James Bergera and Ronald Priddis, Brigham Young University: A House of Faith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 207·17. For additional references to the earlier incarnation of BYU’s AAUP chapter, see pp. 204-205, 214, 218. See also D. Michael Quinn, “Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26 (Summer 1993): 1-87, esp. 50-55.
5. The brown bag meeting was held 21 March 1995. Abbott subsequently published the brief piece on Evenson’s story “Altmann’s Tongue” in Student Review, 21 Apr. 1995, 6·7. Although Evenson’s case had been public since Vern Anderson’s story for the Associated Press on 13 February, the most extensive public discussion to that point also coincided with the call for AAUP membership. See the discussion of Evenson’s case in chap. 8. See Paul Swenson’s article and interview with Evenson. “Brian’s Song—Kafka in God’s Country,” The Event, 16-29 Mar. 1995. On the call to organize a BYU AAUP chapter, see Joan O’Brien, “Group Touts Academic Freedom to BYU Professors,” Salt Lake Tribune, 31 Mar. 1995; Patrick Poyfair, “Academic-freedom group returns to Y,” Deseret News, 29·30 Mar. 1995; Shea Nuttall, “Y professors to start group to protect academic freedom,” Daily Universe, 28 Mar. 1995.
9. Jeanette Bennett and Janna Nielsen, “President Bateman to focus on academic, spiritual,” Daily Universe, 8 Jan. 1996; on the transition from Lee to Bateman and how it would affect BYU, also see Peg McEntee, “House Not Divided: Faith and Learning Come Even Closer Together at BYU,” Salt Lake Tribune, 6 Nov. 1995.
13. Quoted in Denise K. Magner, “A Test of Faith: To Stay Employed, Brigham Young Professors Must Prove Spiritual Worthiness,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 23 Feb. 1996, A17. The article also quotes Abbott, Rushforth, and William Evenson.
15. “Form B (Specified Services-Fall Winter Semesters; Faculty; Continuing status),” signed by Stan L. Albrecht, 1992. Compare to the same form from 1991, also signed by Albrecht, which is identical except for the paragraph cited.
20. The first excerpt is from George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q Cannon, First Counselor to Presidents John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow, ed. Jerreld L. Newquist (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974), 2:276-77. On Faust’s use of the same passage, see James L. Faust, “Keeping Covenants and Honoring the Priesthood,” Ensign 23 (Nov. 1993): 36-38, excerpted and reported in “Six Intellectuals Disciplined for Apostasy,” Sunstone, Nov. 1993, 70.
25. The final portion of this argument and much of BYU’s Academic Freedom Statement relies on an article by Michael W. McConnell, “Academic Freedom in Religious Colleges and Universities,” Law and Contemporary Problems 53 (1990). 3: 303-24. Only by securing the rights of institutions to limit individual academic freedom, BYU’s statement continued, could religious universities maintain their identities and contribute to a pluralistic academy. Further, the statement argued, religious universities could, by claiming institutional over individual academic freedom, contribute to the marketplace of ideas by questioning the very idea of rational truth, subjecting reason to the higher truth of revelation (see chap. 5).
26. The critique of the academic freedom statement’s rhetoric would come to its fullest expression in Bruce W. Jorgensen’s “Notes on BYU’s 1992 Academic Freedom Statement and Related Policies,” Jan. 1997.
27. “BYU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors Report on Issues of Academic Freedom at BYU,” 19 Mar. 1996. Also see Martha C. Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Higher Education (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 291.
30. See Jennifer Gantt Absher, “Family at Heart of Elder Hafen’s World,” Daily Universe, 19 Apr. 1996. For Bateman’s comment, see BYU Faculty Women’ s Association Meeting Minutes, 13 Mar. 1996, 3. He also asked the group for its definition of feminism, then said, according to the minutes, that he felt “the problem is not the ‘study of but the ‘advocacy of [feminism]. He used the example of the teaching of evolution. It is important at a university to discuss ideas about lots of things, including those related to the concept of evolution. Particularly when content is clearly outside the boundary of Church doctrine, then advocating something is clearly out of line, such as advocating abortion or homosexuality or the dissolution of family re-[p.411]lationships, or advocating something outside the family as a better lifestyle.” At the same time, Bateman said he was in favor of incorporating more “senior” women into his administration.
33. For a series of articles discussing the self-study that accompanied this accreditation review, see the Daily Universe, 24Jan. 1996. On the reaccreditation, see Associated Press, “Despite Some Rifts, BYU Receives Glowing Marks,” 6 July 1996. The report did note that faculty morale had suffered due to academic freedom controversies.
41. Vern Anderson (A.P.), “BYU Faculty Member Accuses School President of Plagiarism,” Associated Press, 15 Aug. 1996; Lisa Guernsey, “Brigham Young’s President Accused of Plagiarism in Inaugural Speech,” Chronicle of Higher Education [electronic] News Update, 16 Aug. 1996.
44. Bateman, “The Mission of Brigham Young University,” in Diversity among Universities and BYU’s Unique Role: Addresses Delivered at the 1996 Annual University Conference, Brigham Young University, August 26-27, 1996 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1996); Hilary Groutage and Peggy Fletcher Stack, “BYU Leader Sorry for Speech’s ‘Ambiguity,’” Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Aug. 1996.
55. Scott Abbott, “On Ecclesiastical Endorsement at Brigham Young University,” Sunstone, Apr. 1997, 9-14, esp. 10-11. Abbott, a friend of the Eppersons, had known them since he and Steven were graduate students at Princeton and Temple universities, respectively.
60. Ibid., 14, 9. The following spring, after the publicity generated by Epperson’s firing. an unrelated Associated Press story reported that BYU’s head wrestling coach had won tens of thousands of dollars as an “ultimate fighting” champion—a “sport” involving closed-fist punching. Some letter-writers noted the irony that BYU would fire Epperson but support this coach’s violent extracurricular activities: “It is OK to beat up people at BYU as long as you go to church on Sunday. but if you miss church to feed the homeless, you get fired?” R P. Bourns to the editor, Salt Lake Tribune, 17 Mar. 1997. See also Paul Frisby to the editor, Salt Lake Tribune, 16 Mar. 1997. For the A.P. story on the wrestling coach, see Robert Gehrke (A.P.), “As BYU Coach Pummels Foes, Will Utah KO Ultimate Bouts?” Salt Lake Tribune, 1 Mar. 1997.
62. This comment apparently had been made in a 21 November 1996 FAC meeting by Associate Academic Vice President James Gordon. On 12 December the local AAUP wrote Gordon asking him to support that opinion with documentation, and enclosed five articles on the issue from the AAUP’ s journal, Academe. See BYU AAUP to Jim Gordon, 12 Dec. 1996.
66. The following day the AAUP board of directors stated, as they faxed a final schedule to Gordon: “We were fairly hopeful after our meeting yesterday. We really are committed to this place and hope to make it even better than it is. Perhaps there is room here for multiple voices.” See BYU AAUP to Gordon, 17 Jan. 1997.
67. The 1940 statement resulted from a series of joint meetings of the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges beginning in 1934. It identified four areas deserving protection for faculty: freedoms of research, publication of research, teaching, and extramural communication. Its limitations clause for religious institutions states: “[L]imitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.” The 1970 “Interpretive Comment” argues that “most church-related institutions no longer need or desire the departure from the principle of academic freedom implied in the 1940 Statement, and we do not now endorse such a departure.” Both statements are included in the AAUP’s Policy Documents and Reports (Washington, D.C.: American Association of University Professors, 1990).
70. Kimberly Murphy, “BYU Officials Defend Academic Policies, Firing of Professor,” Associated Press, 22 Jan. 1997; also see Kimberly Murphy, “No Temple Recommend, No Teaching: History Professor Casualty of BYU Endorsement Policy,” Associated Press, 22 Jan. 1997.
71. Laurie Thayer, “Y Stands by Houston Dismissal, Welcomes AAUP Investigation,” Daily Universe, 23 Jan. 1997. “The AAUP is not the official accrediting body of the university,” Thayer opined, “and therefore cannot expect BYU to follow its policies.” The other two articles are Amy Anderson, “Profs Assess Academic Freedom Statement,” and Barbara R. Ackroyd (with Associated Press), “BYU Fires Professor of History,” Daily Universe, 23 Jan. 1997.
77. See revised draft, “Academic Freedom and Tenure: Brigham Young University,” 29 Apr. 1997; eventually published, with minor changes, as “Academic Freedom and Tenure: Brigham Young University,” Academe: Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors 83 (Sept.-Oct. 1997): 52-68.
78. Vern Anderson (A.P.), “BYU may face censure by professors’ group,” Deseret News, 10 Aug. 1997. For another report on Waterman’s presentation that does not refer to the Babbel anecdote, see Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Will Group Censure BYU for Limiting Academic Freedom?” Salt Lake Tribune, 9 Aug. 1997. Stack quoted BYU Academic Vice President Alan Wilkins, who knew nothing more of Waterman’s talk, presumably, than what the reporter had told him, but dismissed the presentation as “a little glib.”
79. Merrill J. Bateman, “A Zion University and the Search for Truth,” Annual University Conference, 25 Aug. 1997, typescript, 11. See Peggy Fletcher Stack, “BYU Leader Stresses Role of Faith,” Salt Lake Tribune, 26 Aug. 1997; for an account that perpetuates the mistake that Anderson drew the Babbel anecdote from Waterman’s Sunstone paper, see Edward L. Carter, “BYU chief defends school’s mission,” Deseret News, 26 Aug. 1997. Waterman pointed out the mistake in a letter to the News’s editor, adding: “President Bateman and Professor Babbel impugned my motives for writing the paper. To an audience that included several of my former professors, colleagues, and family friends, and without having read my paper or talked to me about it, President Bateman suggested that … I am one of ‘many people’ who are ‘opposed to BYU’s mission and have an agenda to undermine it.’ … [Rather,] I chronicled the Bateman-AAUP conflicts (as part of a larger project) because I believe the academic freedom issues at BYU desenre fuller treatment and understanding than they have previously received … ” See Waterman to the editor, Deseret News, 10 Sept. 1997. This conflict, in particular the possibility that Bateman’s talk was destined for wide circulation in the school’s alumni magazine, prompted some of Waterman’s family members to contact Bateman, who then arranged to meet Waterman in December 1997. The meeting was cordial, and, though Bateman reasserted his complaint regarding one-sided media coverage of BYU controversies, he declined to answer Waterman’s questions on specific cases or to comment more generally on academic freedom issues. See Waterman’s notes, taken immediately following the meeting, 18 Dec. 1997. The version of Bateman’s talk included in the alumni magazine did not include Anderson’s or Waterman’s names, though they remained in the version on BYU’s home page on the World Wide Web and in excerpts of the address published in the faculty newsletter. See Bateman, “BYU academic freedom statement ‘clear,’” Y News, 29 Aug. 1997.
80. Vern Anderson (AP.), “Why Didn’t Professor Join Staff at BYU?” Associated Press, 1 Sept. 1997. Sources close to Babbel confirmed to us the substance, if not the details, of Anderson’s original story, though Babbel was not happy about becoming part of the public discussion regarding BYU’s academic freedom disputes.
81. Alan Wilkins, “Journeying toward a Zion University,” in A Zion University: Addresses Delivered at the 1997 Annual University Conference, Brigham Young University, August 24-25, 1997 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1997).
82. “Addendum: Comments from Brigham Young University Administrators,” Academe: Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors 83 (Sept.-Oct. [p.414]1997): 69-71. The AAUP response concerning Gonzaga is found in the AAUP report in the same issue of Academe, 65n3.
85. Jerry Gowen, “BYU responds to AAUP; report to have little effect,” Daily Universe, 15 Sept. 1997; Dan Egan, “BYU Finds Fault with AAUP Stand,” Salt Lake Tribune, 15 Sept. 1997; also see Margaret Nell and Kristen Sonne, “AAUP critical of BYU,” Daily Universe, 15 Sept. 1997; Julianna Basinger, “Report by National Faculty Group Finds ‘Climate of Oppression’ at Brigham Young U.,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 16 Sept. 1997.
90. Jonathan Hart, “The AAUP and Academic Freedom at BYU,” Student Review, 10 Oct. 1997. For other coverage on campus, see two even-handed articles by Sarah L. Ostler under the banner headline, “AAUP maintains tradition of freedom,” Daily Universe, 29 Sept. 1997.
91. Scott Abbott to BYU AAUP, multiple recipients of electronic correspondence, 23 Sept. 1997. Members had suggested at the chapter meeting that the group invite a “prominent academic to speak at BYU on the subject of what the AAUP has meant to American higher education over the years.”
92. “The ‘Limitations’ Clause in the 1940 Statement of Principles: Some Operating Guidelines,” Academe: Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, Jan.-Feb. 1997,49-52, quote on 49.