The American Association of University Professors will probably censure Brigham Young University's administration Saturday for its record on academic freedom issues, a BYU official conceded Friday.
But Alan L. Wilkins, academic vice president, took a defiant stance on the impending vote, saying that to allow an outside group like the AAUP to impose its own view of academic freedom would destroy BYU's ability to accomplish its "unique mission.""Apparently, the only way to avoid censure by the AAUP would be to abolish the few limitations we have," Wilkins wrote in a memo to faculty and staff. "This will never do."
Last September, a 19-page report by an AAUP committee that probed the firing of a professor and academic freedom issues at the university, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, found the climate "distressingly poor" and infringements widespread.
The report was published in the September-October issue of the AAUP journal "Academe." The results of voting by the 45,000 members of AAUP on whether to censure BYU's administration will be announced Saturday at the national faculty group's annual meeting in Washington D.C.
Such a censure would not threaten BYU's accreditation but would be a blow to its prestige in the academic community.
The AAUP report concluded that BYU's Statement on Academic Freedom is not explicit enough about limitations on professors' academic freedom to steer them away from areas of concern; procedures do not ensure a fair hearing for those who allege academic freedom violations; and the large number of cases suggest "a widespread pattern of infringements on academic freedom in a climate of oppression and fear of reprisals."
The administration's efforts to protect orthodoxy at the nation's largest church-owned school - particularly when it comes to feminist thought and Mormon studies - hinder professors from staying current in their disciplines, the report said.
The university violated former English professor Gail Turley Houston's academic freedom when it refused to give her continuing status, BYU's version of tenure, the AAUP said. The administration had accused Houston of attacking the university in speeches at the Sunstone Symposium, an independent forum on Mormon studies, and in Student Review, an off-campus newspaper.
In his memo, Wilkins said the limitations BYU places on academic freedom "preserve our connection to principle sources of truth: fundamental doctrine and prophets."
"Only when we combine our best intellectual efforts with the light of the gospel will we have the capacity to fulfill BYU's highest calling," he wrote.