16.6.06

Academic Freedom Non-Existent at BYU

In light of Jeffrey Nielsen being let go at BYU as an instructor in the Philosophy department for expressing his views on gay marriage in an op-ed piece for the Salt Lake Tribune, I see that BYU still struggles with Academic Freedom, which is a basic tenet of institutions of higher learning and BYU does not understand this important aspect of a university.
Although, I'm not at all surprised that BYU let him go as everyone expected it the moment they read his op-ed piece. According to the Tribune, "BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the decision to let Nielsen go came from the philosophy department.
'The department made the decision because of a recent opinion piece that publicly contradicted and opposed a statement by the First Presidency,' Jenkins said. 'Such contradiction is in violation of university policy.'"
I beg to differ, Ms Jenkins. BYU's "Statement on Academic Freedom" specifically states: "...
exercise of individual and institutional academic freedom must be a matter of reasonable limitations. In general, at BYU a limitation is reasonable when the faculty behavior or expression seriously and adversely affects the university mission or the Church. Examples would include expression with students or in public that:
  1. contradicts or opposes, rather than analyzes or discusses, fundamental Church doctrine or policy;"
If you actually read Jeffrey Nielsen's letter in the Trib, you'd see that he very carefully analyzed and discussed the Church's stance on gay marriage. He didn't just contradict it. But no one at BYU probably even read his op-ed piece. That's standard operating procedure at BYU. Condemn first without all the facts.
Like when Julie Stouffer was on MTV's the Real World New Orleans. They kicked her out of BYU based on hearsay while specifically stating that no one at BYU had actually watched any of the episodes of the Real World. If they had, they would have seen an admirable young woman who was shown going to church on Sundays, reading scriptures, having fun while being a good Latter-day Saint and good role model for her roommates and young people all across America. By kicking her out of BYU, the Church only hurt their own image among America's youth.
Good luck with that Mormon church. Let's see how far this attitude gets you. Back when I was still active in the church, they talked about how they were losing huge numbers of youth who were leaving the church. That won't be changing any time soon.

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