Summarized by Kent Larsen
Another Outspoken BYU Professor Leaves For UVSC
Deseret News 12Jun00 D3
By Jeffrey P. Haney: Deseret News staff writer
PROVO, UTAH -- BYU professor Samuel Rushforth, a botany professor,
has decided to leave BYU for a post at UVS, becoming the latest in
what the Deseret News calls "A small but steady migration" from BYU
to UVSC. Rushforth becomes the new dean of Utah Valley State
College's school of science and health, joining former BYU professors
Scott Abbott and Eugene England at the growing college.
In a prepared statement, Rushforth complemented the college, "UVSC
has proven to be an important academic voice in Utah. I am pleased to
become a part of UVSC's ongoing dedication to academic excellence and
diversity." Rushforth is a former BYU Honors Professor of the Year
and the winner of the 1991 United Nations Environment Programme 500
Award. He says he is anxious to start working at the 20,000-student
college, which is begining to rival BYU in size. "Open enrollment is
stimulating in higher education," he said. "My experience in higher
education is that high grade-point averages and test scores are not a
predictor of success."
All three former BYU professors were considered mavericks at BYU,
publicly questioning the university's policies and academic freedom
record. England left after retiring from BYU, subsequently founding a
center for Mormon studies at UVSC earlier this year. Abbott, who
founded BYU's chapter of the American Association of University
Professors, left after he was denied tenure. His position became
controversial after the AAUP censured BYU and after he said in the
presentation of a paper he was delivering that the number of non-LDS
faculty at BYU had fallen and that other non-LDS faculty had felt
pressure to leave.
Rushforth says he is looking forward to working with faculty and
students that hold varied religious and political views, "That's
enriching for a college. That's deeply important to me," he said.
"It's pretty democratic, and I like that." UVSC President Kerry
Romesburg says that the college benefits from being so close to BYU,
since they can get professors that want to leave for a non-religious
setting. He named UVSC Vice President Brad Cook and award-winning
playwright Tim Slover as examples of former BYU professors that chose
to shift to UVSC. "I think it is wonderful," he said. "We're getting
great people, scholars we otherwise wouldn't be able to get."
For its part, BYU says that the faculty left because of either
administrative positions, or disagreements with BYU's approach to
incorporating religion, according to BYU associate academic vice
president Jim Gordon. Pointing to a Baylor University study of BYU,
he says that nearly 90 percent of BYU faculty say they "have more
freedom at BYU to teach as they deem appropriate than they think they
would have elsewhere."
"I don't see this as a trend," Gordon adds. "Very few have left, and
they have done so for personal reasons." He acknowledges that a few
have sought other jobs "because they disagreed with BYU's approach
to religion. They'd probably be happier in a public institution."