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For week ended February 13, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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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 thinking.'

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 1998 study.

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 philosophy."


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