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BYU as an Academic Institution

At the outset, I should admit that I recognize BYU is not intended to be the same as other universities. According to its mission statement, the institution's purpose is "to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life." For the sake of contrast, Stanford's website says: "The freedom of scholarly inquiry granted to faculty and students at Stanford is our greatest privilege; using this privilege boldly is our objective." It's clear that BYU's institutional goals are different from those of most (okay, all) other major universities. But BYU is an educational institution, and it should be able to compete in the academic world.

For the most part, I think BYU does a pretty good job. Its facilities are top-notch. We boast one of the best college libraries in America. The tuition is ridiculously low for the quality of education that we receive. But I think there's room for improvement.

In 1992, BYU implemented a statement on academic freedom that states, "Because the gospel encompasses all truth and affirms the full range of human modes of knowing, the scope of integration for LDS scholars is, in principle, as wide as truth itself." However, the statement does specify that expression cannot contradict or oppose Church doctrine, deride Church leaders, or violate the principles of the Honor Code. Since the implementation of this policy, several professors have been dismissed, denied tenure, or otherwise disciplined for various academic freedom issues. In 1998, the American Association of University Professors placed BYU on a list of censured organizations, saying that "infringements on academic freedom are distressingly common and that the climate for academic freedom is distressingly poor." BYU remains on this list to this day.

It wasn't until I watched This Divided State that I realized the intensity of the rallies and debates that were going on over at UVSC during the Michael Moore controversy. I was actually jealous, because I know that there's no way such a debate could be duplicated at BYU. There's no way we'd ever invite a speaker like Michael Moore to speak here. Unfortunately, the average BYU student isn't exposed to different ways of thinking, unless they go out of their way to investigate those viewpoints.

While I haven't always been impressed with The Daily Univserse, I do applaud them for providing a forum for student discussion and debate. They've been surprisingly willing to print controversial material. Yet I can't help but lament some of the issues that BYU students insist on debating (e.g. the modesty/immodesty of BYU cheerleader attire, the morality of walking during the national anthem, whether or not to smile at others on campus).

I frequently wish that this campus felt more like a college campus. I don't mean that we need more keggers or anything. But academically, I think we could stand a bit more stimuli. I think our professors deserve a bit more academic freedom. I think we all need to hear more viewpoints that differ from our own. I think we need more controversy and debate. And I really think we can do more of these things without compromising the spiritual side of the university's mission.

Just some thoughts. Anyone agree? Anyone disagree?

i agree

i've always been wary of institutions which insist some ideas are too dangerous to consider or some topics too poisonous to research.

Academic Freedom Schmeedom

If you wanna know, pretty much the only issues that would make BYU dismiss a professor are related to professors attacking the Book of Mormon or other things that in fact deny the authenticity of the Church. I don't see why the Church should fund such enterprises.

BYU teaches evolution to all the scientific extent other colleges do. I've attended several classes studying other religions and I can say that the respect, understanding and interest shown and encouraged in those classes was outstanding. They've truly helped me appreciate the truth there is in Hinduism and Taoism.

The Moore controversy has nothing to do with academic freedom but rather with misuse of student association funds. Maybe we can talk about academic freedom issues once someone is done explaining how Moore's visit had something "academic" in its nature.

Also, I suggest you consider This Divided State with a grain of salt. The view presented to the viewer can't help but to include a lot of the bias of the author (e.g. nobody tried to bribe anybody, that is a rather forced point of view).

Of course the Church

Of course the Church shouldn't fund professors who are outright attacking the Church. But because of the stringent rules imposed upon BYU professors, I fear that many shy away from investigating certain subjects, for fear that their research be interpreted as "anti-doctrinal."

The Michael Moore issue isn't one pertaining to academic freedom, per se. But it's an issue of presenting a point of view on campus that might differ from the viewpoint held by the majority of students. And I think the presentation of such ideas is vital to the university experience.

Please explain

I am interested on how inviting Michael Moore to campus was a misuse of student association funds. Before Kay Anderswon dropped his lawsuit saying as much, the judge said that he had seen no evidence. ASUVSC followed their constitution, made their decision, stuck by it. And the school had one of their best years ever. Please explain the misuse.

And you are absolutely right Steez....BYU would be a better University if it had more of the open discussion that UVSC had last year. I'm not saying that BYU sucks...but in my opinion the campus could use the occasional controversy

While not everyone would

While not everyone would agree with Michael Moore's opinions, credentials, or whatever, I don't think it can be denied that he was a very prominent and outspoken national figure in 2004. UVSC invited a controversial, politically outspoken national figure to speak at a campus event, just prior to a national election. I don't care if you don't like Michael Moore, I think the invitation was totally appropriate. Even if everyone hated Michael Moore, the event still got people thinking, got people debating, got people involved.

Michael Moore coming to campus isn't an academic freedom issue. It's separate. But both issues deal with the presentation of different ideas on campus, even and especially when it comes to ideas that differ from those of the majority.

Two Facts

So I am new to this post, please be nice :)

1) Tax dollars did not pay for Moore, it was sutdent fees (So the students were the ones who were screwed, but hey, at times we dont have the leaders we approve of or their actions, the students voted for Vogel, and democratic tranditions are not always perfect!)

2) A lot of these post seem to show me that BYU is lacking in some fundemental pricipless of education, which is open discussion and debate! Good thing our founding fathers, the folks who wrote the constitution believed in open discussion to all issues!

I guess LaurenceB is on to something...maybe it is the fact that being a follower of known truth only goes so far, and being a leader in eternal truth requires going against what is the norm...ever heard of Joesph Smith?

The AAUP

Practucally every privately owned or religiously affiliated university is or has been censured by the AAUP. And I don't think it's bad practice for a University to politely ask that those who work for it don't bite the hand that feeds them. And outside of religious scholarship (which, I would argue, is of no great consequence to most academic scholarship at large), BYU has shown quite a bit of leniency in letting its professors publish what they will. The most recent case that comes to mind is that professor (name eludes me) who thinks that the Twin Towers were brought down by bombs, not by airplanes, and hints at some sort of government conspiracy and cover-up. Ludicrous, and it paints BYU in a bad light, but they let him do it.

"If you wanna know, pretty

"If you wanna know, pretty much the only issues that would make BYU dismiss a professor are related to professors attacking the Book of Mormon or other things that in fact deny the authenticity of the Church"

this is problematic in several ways.
1. it is historically false
2. even if they do not dismiss a professor, the lord's university uses other means (ie. denying tenure and promotions) to push certain professors out
3. there is no definition of what is considered as attacking the church until allegations are made
this third one is especially problematic because it is highly subjective. is researching historical facts (such as post-manifesto polygamy) for the church (pursuit of truth) or against it (questioning the authortitative narrative)? what aspects of the LDS scriptures can be questioned? can a historian point out faults, sins, or mistakes of church leaders? can a philosopher discuss problems of mormon theology?

"BYU teaches evolution to all the scientific extent other colleges do"

and then the students go to their religion classes where mckonkie and others say that those very scientific teachings are wrong and satanic

"I've attended several classes studying other religions and I can say that the respect, understanding and interest shown and encouraged in those classes was outstanding. They've truly helped me appreciate the truth there is in Hinduism and Taoism."

byu does not, nor can it have a real religious studies program. the exclusive nature of current lds theology demands an a priori assumption that other religions (though containing truths are substantially false. there is no brahma. there is no tao. there is no krishna. there is no trinity. there is no allah. catechism does not ensure salvation. the vedas does not offer propositionally true knowledge. the quran is not the word of god. etc. etc. etc.

"The Moore controversy has nothing to do with academic freedom but rather with misuse of student association funds."

anyone who was actively engaged in the discussion on either camps will attest that it was about the content of moore's rhetoric and not about funds. kay anderson was clear about this. the funds were just a legal front.

"e.g. nobody tried to bribe anybody, that is a rather forced point of view"

i was present when kay anderson offered $20,000 to keep more from speaking. it was a bribe.

project mayhem

Why did the VP resign?

Why did the student-body VP have to resign? If I recall from "This Divided State" it seems that he was planning on writing a book; i.e., he stood to gain financially by starting the controversy, and he was forced to resign his position because it jeopardized UVSC's position in the lawsuit.

After listening to Michael Moore's UVSC speech, I was thinking about a lawsuit myself: who can I sue to get those 2 hours of my life back?

I feel sorry that UVSC lost money by inviting him to visit. I'm pretty sure that if the ASUVSC had invited someone that was not only liberal but also intelligent, there would have been zero controversy. But I guess we'll never know.

I want to know

I'm interested in knowing why people keep dragging up UVSC-- UVSC (state-funded school!)-- when this is BYU's credentials we're discussing.
That fiasco has nothing to do with BYU's academic achievements; why does everyone keep acting like its relevant?

is freedom to comply with the majority really freedom?

i have a friend who was the first mission president to poland, who graduated from u.s.c. in organ performance, apprenticed in poland and germany to some of the premiere violin makers in the world, did organ performance graduate work in vienna, where he obtained a doctorate and has taught at several schools. he was denied a position in the brigham young school of music because his application was dropped after some unfounded remarks about his apparent lack of a testimony were spread around the department. he currently manages the study abroad program to poland and teaches polish history and language courses at byu.

apparently he was righteous enough for one building on campus, but not another.

more to come on student's academic rights.

This is exactly right. The

This is exactly right. The issue was not funding, it was not academics, it was not anything else that the prejudiced righties tried to make it. They didn't like Moore. That was it. It amazes me to this day that some people are still pissed off that Moore came for $40,000 but somehow forget to mention that Hannity, who said he'd come free, made his equally ridiculous accusations (against the left), and then charged the school some $50k or $60k for "traveling expenses" (as I recall, he made UVSC pay for a trip from Arizona to New York on a private jet that was planned well in advance of his invitation to UVSC and had nothing to do with his appearance here).

While not everyone would

While not everyone would agree with Michael Moore's opinions, credentials, or whatever, I don't think it can be denied that he was a very prominent and outspoken national figure in 2004. UVSC invited a controversial, politically outspoken national figure to speak at a campus event, just prior to a national election. I don't care if you don't like Michael Moore, I think the invitation was totally appropriate. Even if everyone hated Michael Moore, the event still got people thinking, got people debating, got people involved.

I don't think it is ethical to spend 100k in Moore and Hannity. I'm not a UVSC student, but I have brothers in there. That money is not for political campaigning or conspiracy theorists.

And I hope you acknowledge that Moore is not a national figure, he's an entertainer. At least Rush Limbaugh (who I think it's very simplistic, BTW) is honest enough to recognize it.

Bring a Senator, a Governor or a govn't or party official, and try to keep the bill lower, and we're back in business. Otherwise, it's unethical misuse of school funds.

Michael Moore coming to campus isn't an academic freedom issue. It's separate. But both issues deal with the presentation of different ideas on campus, even and especially when it comes to ideas that differ from those of the majority.

Then the UVSC Philosophy Dept. desperately needs to get its act together.

and then the students go to

and then the students go to their religion classes where mckonkie and others say that those very scientific teachings are wrong and satanic

In my opinion this demonstrates that there is *more* academic freedom at BYU, not less. On other college campuses you can't as much as say the word "God" before the ACLU is on you like a bad suit.

So it's a give-and-take situation. We miss out on hearing professors who want to pour pig's blood on our religion, but we get to have religion classes from Elder McConkie's son. It's a matter of choice.

The AAUP

I think it's worth mentioning that when comparing U.S. News & World Report's list of Top 100 U.S. colleges to the AAUP's current list of censured organizations, the only school besides BYU to appear on both lists is Yeshiva University (a school with ties to Orthodox Judaism, but with no official religious affiliation). So it would seem that the other top universities (many of which are private schools) seem to do a pretty good job of avoiding AAUP censures.

In any case, the main point of my original post was not strictly academic freedom. As BYU students, we don't get as much exposure to viewpoints that are perceived as alternative, liberal, or non-mainstream as we should. If we're so convinced of the "truth" we possess, then can't we be confident that it will stand up to other points of view? Can't we approach history, science, social issues, etc. in an academic setting without worrying that they will contradict the "truth" we already have? We shouldn't shy away from controversy all the time, just because it makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps greater exposure to differing viewpoints will increase our understanding of, and appreciation for, "truth."

I know who you're talking

I know who you're talking about. He is a family friend. I didn't know that had happened. May I ask him about it?

VP resigning

If you get all your Moore news from This Divided State than I feel sorry for you. That's about 1/4 of what happened last year.

Michael Moore, controversies, etc.

I don't think Michael Moore's talk has any relationship with BYU's academic achievements.

I mentioned the whole ordeal in the original post, however, to contrast BYU and UVSC. I would be very surprised if BYU ever decided to invite somebody half as liberal or half as controversial as Michael Moore to speak at a BYU Forum or any other major campus event. I just don't see that happening any time soon at BYU. The event at UVSC gave way to protests, rallies, and debates about free speech. Like one of the UVSC administrators said, it almost brought a tear to his eye, because for a moment, it actually seemed like a college campus. We should have these kind of debates in the college experience. Both sides of major political and social issues should be presented and addressed on campus.

What are the "controversies" here at BYU? What do we debate? We argue about whether or not the cheerleaders' skirts are too short.

Most of the Church's best and brightest attend BYU, even though many of them could have been accepted to more prestigious schools. BYU is a good school, don't get me wrong. But we have students here who could have attended Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, etc. We have a very academic, very impressive student body. At times, I feel that the university could do more to create a more academically stimulating environment, capable of competing with other top colleges on more levels, without necessarily taking away from the school's spiritual identity.

That is a lie and you know it

"i was present when kay anderson offered $20,000 to keep more from speaking. it was a bribe."

He offered to pay for UVSC's debt (in which the gracious student association incurred on) so that the "well, now we're commited, if we don't go through we're not gonna be able to pay" excuse would not stand ground. If he was adding a little extra to the school or something, then it would have been a bribe, but he didn't.

Ergo, it was not a bribe and you and your movie lied.

I challenge to prove me wrong. Let's see what you can come up with. I love it when people try to buy their way out of their bluff with verbosity.

Thanks for bringing that up

Hannity's visit is just another case of mismanagement by the student leadership. Thanks for bringing that up.

You're right, most Utahns don't like Moore, but regardless of that fact, authority abuse by the UVSC student leadership occured.

I personally could not care less if Michael Moore, Howard Dean, Rod Stewart or the Pope come to Utah, it's their right and they are also entitled to freedom of speech. If someone spends 50k of their own pocket to bring Moore, well, I can think of a million better things you could do with that money, but that's THEIR money, so it's none of my businesses. But using school funds (dedicated to improving student life) to pay for a political circus (featuring clowns) is unethical.

Michael Moore is nationally

Michael Moore is nationally known and recognized. Who cares if he's an entertainer? He's a national figure.

It seems that we're forgetting that ticket sales compensated for whatever money was spent to bring Michael Moore. UVSC didn't end up in the red for bringing Michael Moore. It definitely wasn't about money. Nobody seemed to have problems with spending $50,000+ to bring Hannity.

I'm still trying to figure out the UVSC Philosophy Dept. comment. I'm a BYU student; I wouldn't know much about UVSC's Philosophy Dept.

And for the sake of decency, can you try to present your views without making personal jabs? "At least Rush Limbaugh is honest enough to recognize it"? Come on. So I guess I'm not as honest as Rush Limbaugh.

Are you sure?

As BYU students, we don't get as much exposure to viewpoints that are perceived as alternative, liberal, or non-mainstream as we should.

I would imagine that in order to maintain accreditation our "history, science, social issues" classes would have to teach the prevailing theories of the field whether they agree with them or not. My friends who are political science majors say most of their professors are flaming liberals. As we've discussed in this forum before, this guy still works here.

I'm not convinced there is a problem.

"On other college campuses

"On other college campuses you can't as much as say the word "God" before the ACLU is on you like a bad suit."

i've taken courses on christian theology, christian ethics, mormon cultural studies, religious studies, and will be taking a course on mormon theology this fall. i just returned from a weekend at claremony graduate university for a philosophy of religion conference. i hear the word 'god' everywhere. no sign of the aclu anywhere.

project mayhem

BYU Academic Standards

Mephisto,

You are quite mistaken in not recognizing the detrimental effect that BYU's policies have on it's academic standing. The fact of the matter is that BYU denies to its students the cream of the crop in the academic field on a daily basis. I personally know a Japanese Literature professor with impeccable credentials (visiting professor at Harvard, now at Boston University), who was not considered for a position at BYU because he is not a church-goer. While I fully support the right of BYU to use this criteria in its hiring practices, it should be obvious to everyone that this results in an overall lower standard of academics. There's really no way around it. By the way, my father was a professor at BYU and I am an avid BYU fan, so don't accuse me of being a BYU-hater - the truth is the truth, even when it hurts.

hi --

you are, of course, free to bring this up. the individual we're speaking of told me that he was not accepted to the music faculty, it was later that i learned from other professors inside the program about the testimony issue. it seemed bizarre to me, but i have no reason to doubt their credibility.

The event at UVSC gave way

The event at UVSC gave way to protests, rallies, and debates about free speech. Like one of the UVSC administrators said, it almost brought a tear to his eye, because for a moment, it actually seemed like a college campus.

Wow, that is some great articulation! It reflects my feelings exactly.

i was there. i was about

i was there. i was about fifteen feet away from kay anderson when he publically offered up the bribe. he offered a cashier's check for $20,000 if it would prevent Moore from speaking. anderson was very clear that he was not protesting the supposed misappropriation of student funds, but was about preventing moore from speaking.

"If he was adding a little extra to the school or something, then it would have been a bribe, but he didn't...Ergo, it was not a bribe and you and your movie lied."

bribe
n.
1. Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a person in a position of trust to influence that person's views or conduct.
2. Something serving to influence or persuade.

yup. it was a bribe.
project mayhem

Controversy for the sake of controversy

I'm not sure what is to be gained by having these "controversies." The main thesis of "This Divided State" is that civil discourse failed as a result of the controversy. Duh. If it's civil, intelligent discourse that you want, you don't invite Michael Moore. You invite someone civil and intelligent.

I think the cheerleader's thing you mention is a bit unfair; for each letter to the editor on the cheerleader's skirts or other B.S. printed for entertainment value there are several well-thought-out letters on relevant issues.

Civil discourse and intelligent debate --how do we get more of this? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure that starting a controversy by doing something akin to inviting Michael Moore to BYU is not the solution.

"I'm still trying to figure

"I'm still trying to figure out the UVSC Philosophy Dept. comment"

the philosophy department at UVSC represents everything satanic about the school. i hate them.

project mayhem

*sigh*

Why not spend 100k bringing the cast of Saturday Night Live, or the Moscow Circus? Are UVSC students in such a dire need of seeing clowns, monkeys and blabber?

If you want to bring monkeys to the stage, fine, just don't spend 100k on the process.

Regarding the UVSC Dept. of philosophy, I'll answer to Steez909. The narrator might think that trying to proactively homogenize my opinion into his made-up Mormon group-think concept was a good snappy answer. I'll let him think what he pleases.

I've talked to a couple of students of philosophy at UVSC about the Moore -Hannity circus before, and told me that the pressure applied by the state was just not only "another Mormon abuse against poor, aggraviated Utah punk-libs"(TM), but also an issue of academic freedom. After prying into the matter a little more, he told me that the "academic freedom" issue was one of the talking points brought up at the forums by the ethics professors at UVSC. I can't help but to doubt about the professionality of the instructors from the UVSC philosophy dept. who hold that position. So Moore and Hannity are not only "national figures", but also their visit was of academic nature? Gimme a break.

I question the integrity of those professors. I believe the talking points they brought up where in their desks even before Joe Vogel has his "fantastic idea". I think these professors are just poor victims of the horrible Mormons who time after time after time keep on attacking and victimazing poor, open-minded liberals in the Western United States. And this was the time they could make their cry of agony heard before drowning into the pool of desperation (or something like that, whatever "Hey! I am the victim here" kindof attitude they might have).

"There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." - Hamlet, Shakespeare