Summarized by Kent Larsen
Is BYU's Academic Freedom Debate Spreading to UVSC?
Deseret News 10Feb00 D3
By Jeffrey P. Haney: Deseret News staff writer
PROVO, UTAH -- While Baylor University researchers come to BYU on Friday
to discuss a recently completed survey on academic freedom at BYU, Utah
Valley State College in Orem, Utah sees itself as under attack from the
same forces that support BYU's academic freedom status quo and from
community forces alarmed that UVSC may become a 'hotbed of liberal
The Baylor researchers will answer questions about their study, which
compares survey results from BYU with a similar survey taken at Baylor,
a private religious in Texas. The researchers found that less than
one-third of BYU faculty felt that they should have unrestricted freedom
to explore academic issues that challenge LDS doctrine. In contrast, at
Baylor, over 70% of the faculty felt that should be free to discuss any
ideas, even if they question the basis of faith.
The Baylor survey comes in the wake of scrutiny by the American
Association of University Professors, essentially a union for University
professors, which questioned BYU's policies on academic freedom in a
Meanwhile, pressure is increasing on state-sponsored Utah Valley State
College, where President Kerry D. Romesburg says that the influence of
BYU in Utah County is causing the recent friction on his campus. "That
worked well when BYU was the school for everyone," says Romesburg. "But
all of a sudden here we are, a state school, offering classes with ideas
that are broader than those allowed at a private institution."
UVSC will hold a forum on Friday to discuss allegations that it is
becoming more liberal than the surrounding community. As UVSC has grown,
it has brought in faculty from outside the county and state, and older
and smaller departments have objected to changes in the distribution of
the college's resources.
Philosophy has entered into the dispute also, as traditionally-minded
faculty objected to more liberal-arts courses and previously taboo
subjects like same-sex marriage and abortion came up in classes. "We
have some faculty who believe that we should protect our students from
those ideas," Romesburg said. "But there is a difference between
indoctrination and education. We deal with education."
The conflict surfaced last month when one faction attempted to impeach
faculty senate president-elect Ron Hammond for breaching policies and
ethical standards. Hammond had polled his students after hearing that
some faculty teaching a required ethics course embraced liberal politics
and belittled LDS beliefs.
Romesburg says that at its core the dispute is really a clash of
political philosophies. Liberal-minded professors are angry that
conservatives like Hammond, who was one of the plaintiffs in last-year's
lawsuit against homosexual Spanish Fork teacher Wendy Weaver, would
question courses for political reasons.
And conservatives like Hammond are upset at the ideas that are being
circulated among students. And they are not only uncomfortable with the
idea, but also some of the actions in class. The school regularly gets
complaints over nude modeling for art classes, an annual mock gambling
event and even science classes that use naked cadavers.
"We have such a solidarity of philosophy in this county," Romesburg
said. "And with this, we are talking basic, fundamental differences of