ALL the News about
Mormons, Mormonism
and the LDS Church
Mormon News: All the News about Mormons, Mormonism and the LDS Church
For week ended January 09, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
Most Recent Week
Front Page
Local News
Arts & Entertainment
·New Products
·New Websites
·Mormon Stock Index
Letters to Editor
Continuing Coverage of:
Boston Temple
School Prayer
Julie on MTV
Robert Elmer Kleasen
About Mormon News
News by E-Mail
Weekly Summary
Submitting News
Submitting Press Releases
Volunteer Positions
Bad Link?

News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church

Summarized by Joyce H Feustel

Mormon Issue at the U. a Touchy One for Students, Faculty
Salt Lake Tribune 9Jan00 D3
By Brooke Adams and Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY -- Bernie Machen, bristling at the suggestion that anti-Mormon sentiment exists at the University of Utah, states that there are no cases of discrimination, no substance to such claims and that he has heard of nothing more than spotty cases of insensitivity during his two-year tenure.

There is a perception that the U. fosters an anti-Mormon attitude in its academic practices and in its faculty hiring which has dogged the school for decades and is fixed in the fabric of campus life in the new century. The Salt Lake Tribune found views evenly divided on the issue, and everyone agreed it's the touchiest of subjects.

Certain faculty members feel disenfranchised because of their affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and some students feel pressured to suppress their religious beliefs and backgrounds in the classroom. There is faculty talk of being shunned at department gatherings, of being kept from influential hiring committees, and of seeing excuses dredged up to exclude Mormon scholars from jobs.

The Tribune spoke with one well-respected faculty member who said he sometimes felt he wandered the campus with a "big red 'M' on my forehead. The first thing people think about me is that I am a Mormon, and everything about me is judged or colored by that fact." He later sought anonymity for his remarks because he feared he might jeopardize a new assignment in his department.

"It's insidious and it's very difficult to put one's finger on it directly," said Richard Cummings, who retired from the U. in 1995 after 38 years. "I had the impression there was a sub rosa tendency to avoid appointments of native Utahns or members of the LDS Church. It happens the way it happens, and nobody wants to be quoted."

Whether fact or urban folklore, as Machen would have it, the perception of anti-Mormon bias may be one the university can never escape given its position as the state's secular counterbalance to LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University.

"The U. fills a role as a metaphorical anti-Christ. BYU can get away with some of what it does because the U. exists," said Reba Keele, a U. business professor.

Cecil Samuelson, who graduated from the U., served as a faculty member and dean of the medical school. He is now a Mormon church official and says he never experienced overt discrimination, though in "class and faculty meetings things get said."

There's no doubt the "Mormon issue" has puzzled the two university's non-Mormon presidents -- Art Smith, who was appointed in 1991, and Machen, who has served since September 1998.

Smith was concerned enough about the issue that he sent Norm Gibbons, a former U. adminstrator, as an emissary throughout the state to gather anecdotal views of the school.

Machen, aware of "cultural insensitivities" on campus is searching for a forum to continue a discussion of tolerance and diversity that he started several months ago in a meeting with the Latter-day Saint Student Association. "Universities are places where differences are meant to come together and mesh, and at the U., it's not working as well as it could."

According to Thayne Robson, director of the U.'s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, in the 60's as much as 70 to 80 percent of the faculty was Mormon and now it is less than 10 percent.

Don Herrin, a professor of family and consumer studies and a Mormon, said that years ago he began wearing a style of temple privileges) after hearing colleagues comment about job applicants' "undershirts."

Machen says competition, rather than discrimination, is at work in hiring practices, a view shared by others on campus, such as Jim Clayton, a former provost and now a history professor.

Clayton said "Our standards are so high and the opportunity to get our first choice is so strong there are not enough Mormons to compete in national and international fields. Mormons are a tiny blip on the radar screen in terms of numbers. The fact that we have a very declining number is solely based on market forces."

Gregersen doesn't buy that argument and ticks off names of Mormon scholars in top positions at Ohio State, Texas A&M, Washington University, Case Western, and the University of Michigan. Neither does Steve Wheelwright, senior associate dean for faculty hiring and planning at Harvard Business School, where six of the 200 faculty are LDS.

Marie Cornwall, a BYU sociology professor who held a one-year appointment at the U. in 1993-94, said the experience was both positive and negative, though she learned "what it was like to be a 'white male.' Because you are part of the dominant culture, you are blamed for everything the church does whether or not you yourself did anything."

Although some people felt no inhibitions about making statements such as, "'I don't like Mormons but I like you,'" Cornwall said "You would never say that to a black person: 'I don't like blacks but I like you.' What's the difference? Mormonism is an ethnicity. For them to feel free to say that gives us a window into the fact that they really don't like us."

Ed Byrnes, a graduate student in social work, said he has "never, repeat never, had any experience where any faculty or staff member was ever derogatory or discriminatory in their behavior toward LDS people."

Said Ryan Thompson, (a U. student and president of the Latter-day Saint Student Association) "There are innuendoes in lectures and snide remarks here and there that kind of hurt. A visiting chemistry professor, for instance, made a comment about the Book of Mormon on the first day of class last fall. While some students who feel slighted and disdained because of their Mormonism are often reluctant to speak out for fear of exacerbating the situation, it wouldn't be appropriate to stand up and say I take offense at that."

Machen says sometimes sometimes students "throw brick bats at each other, but I think that is going to be healthy in the long run as they learn more about each other."


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information