24 September 1996

Dr. Merrill J. Bateman
President, Brigham Young University
D-346 ASB
Provo, Utah 84602-1346

Dear President Bateman:

The BYU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors is concerned with the recent firing of Professor GailTurley Houston. We had hoped the decision would be reversed either by the appeal panel or by you. Apparently members of the panel were sympathetic to many of the arguments made in Prof. Houston's behalf, but the University advocate asked the panel to rule only on whether proper procedures had been followed. Our Chapter is convinced that procedures were indeed violated (as pointed out in previous correspondence) but that is not the main purpose of this letter.

Our main concern here is with the arguments made about violations of Prof. Houston's academic freedom--large issues that include misrepresentations and misunderstandings of feminist and postmodern theory. We are discouraged with the atmosphere for faculty and staff at BYU, particularly for women. Likewise, we take issue with growing restrictions on scholarship and teaching at BYU.

After a review of many of the relevant documents, a representative of our national organization offered the following preliminary evaluation of the situation:

The members of our Chapter concur with this evaluation and are committed to bringing about more open and tolerant conditions at BYU. We wish to work with colleagues and the administration to recreate an atmosphere in which discussion is possible, scholarship is encouraged, trust is a matter of course, and the principles espoused in our "Statement on Academic Freedom" are adhered to.

As pointed out in the University Self Study and in the accreditation report of the Commission on Colleges of the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, there are serious problems here with faculty and staff morale. A series of apparently harsh and unfair decisions on tenure and promotion, including most recently Prof. Houston's case, has affected that morale substantially. Further, our reputation as an academic institution has begun to fall as we take actions clearly in conflict with accepted and proven academic practice. As a result, departments are finding it ever more difficult to hire new faculty, early retirements are increasing, and tenured and untenured faculty are taking jobs elsewhere. We must take action to reverse that trend.

In this spirit, we have decided to ask the National AAUP to more thoroughly review Professor Houston's firing. We believe it is in the best interest of the university to obtain the opinion of an impartial external organization whose main purpose is to further academic freedom at colleges and universities across the country. We have no punitive goal in mind. But we are committed as a group and as individuals to the long-term health and flourishing of BYU. Many of us have been here for our entire careers and want nothing more than to see BYU reach its full potential as a university with deep religious commitments. This is possible only if we foster a rigorous ethical and academic standard in fact and not only in theory. So, we will continue to work for the advancement of our institution.

Sincerely,

Members of the BYU Chapter of the AAUP

cc Jordan E. Kurland, AAUP


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