Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and/or faculty, as described in Section 2.A.28 of the NWCCU’s Accreditation Standards? Why or why not?
I think that on the surface there are a lot of attempts to be open, while secretly everyone knows there are subjects that are taboo, and things one should not talk about.
For example, if one leaves the Mormon faith, one can lose all the college credit earned up to that point under the “honor code”.
This same honor code can be flagrantly abused. My wife was threatened to be in violation of the honor code for not cleaning her wall the way her dorm leader thought it should be cleaned.
Similarly, professors have come under scrutiny (the most famous being D. Michael Quinn some time ago) for teaching “truths that were not useful”. During the Kate Kelly/ordain women movement I contacted a professor that had taught my wife and others on women’s studies on the side. She said that she “knew how to keep her head down” during times when the board of directors was looking for heads to roll.
This implies that one must censure one’s views; one’s beliefs and one’s voice during the times when students may be seeking it most. Even the faithful Mormons like Hugh Nibley had to be wary of raising voices on issues of war, peace, and such if they disagreed too much with the board of directors their positions and situations could be challenged just for holding unfavorable views.
The bookstore behaves like a monopoly, pulling around professors who do not comply with their demands. My Economics professor once commented on the Bookstore being a monopoly, at which point the bookstore launched a campaign in the university’s newspaper attacking the professor. The next semester that professor’s books were hidden in a back corner, annoying all his students.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU? If so, please elaborate here.
Unfortunately, I mostly complied with what was expected and did not bump against the academic freedom barriers. I can share two stories that illustrate how individuals self-limit before having their academic freedom directly reduced:
Optional: Do you believe that there is another reason why BYU should not be granted continuing accreditation? Please name the Section that you are referring to in your comment.
2.A.2 In a multi-unit governance system, the division of authority and responsibility between the system and the institution is clearly delineated. System policies, regulations, and procedures concerning the institution are clearly defined and equitably administered.
I learned that students who were homosexual were tracked during the 70’s during Ernest L. Wilkinson’s time as president. These students were not treated “equitably administered” to. Namely students whose license plates were found at gay bars were excommunicated and hence forced out of the university. Studies were run on the students in 1976: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1u3K43P-3JoY2Q5NDY3ZjYtNWUyMi00YWJiLWFhM2EtYTE4MjViNWVjOGEz/edit using electro shock therapy. This practice was recently deemed a fraud: http://bit.ly/1DRjF8A
I had been taught that this practice ended in the two years of the study, but later found out from fellow students that electroshock/vomit therapy on homosexuals continued until 1996, the year I arrived at BYU. To study the impact, and find it non-successful and then continue the practice for 20 more years is inexcusable. Further the church still supports aversion therapy for homosexuals by sending troubled youth (including BYU students to boy’s ranches such as “Evergreen” and the “West ridge Academy”. Students who admit to being gay can be prescribed to go to these camps (at staggering costs) to maintain their “Ecclesiastical endorsement”. Remember the student is unable to change religions to maintain that endorsement forcing the student to go to the academy or lose all of their previous credits and academic work; simply for “Being Gay”.
This is hardly equal treatment among students where some men and women can find love, express their true selves and live their lives while others are hunted off campus and pushed into reformation camps while having their accreditation put on the line
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn’t speak honestly at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience? If so, please elaborate here.
Every class is rated by how connected the ideas taught are to the gospel. In one class we were challenged to read “What would Jesus do?” and describe how it impacted my life. I only had the answer “it didn’t” and yet I knew that would net me a bad grade which would impact my status as a student (Scholarships, academic probation, etc.). As such I wrote about how I would not go into the video game industry due to the book. I self-limited rather than be honest with the course’s impact on my life.
A second example came from a comparative literature course where the final grade was based on an essay about “Which book would you base a society on”. Students who chose the bible scored significantly higher than any other book; and almost no student chose another book besides the bible (We could all see how this was to get a high score on that survey and adjusted our responses as expected).
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
I am a heavily bearded fellow with dark hair. I have been excluded from being able to take tests on the same day I shaved due to “5 o’clock shadow” whereas others on my floor could go months without shaving. Although minor, exclusion from taking a test, forcing to return to a dormitory and shave impacts one’s test results, sometimes resulting in not being able to complete the test in time.
Again, to be clear, even if one is trying to comply, the “Ecclesiastical roulette” that occurs at whether the testing center person that day dislikes your face, your style, can completely impact one’s testing experience.