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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended June 18, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 13Jun00

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."


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