Number of non-LDS professors at BYU not growing

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    By Ann-Cecilie Moen

    BYU has always defined itself openly as an LDS university, and accordingly it principally draws its faculty and students from members of the LDS Church, according to the Statement on Academic Freedom at Brigham Young University.

    When hiring faculty, qualified candidates are evaluated without discrimination to gender, race, color, national origin, age, veteran status or disability, according to the university policy on faculty rank and status.

    Don W. Abel, academic personnel specialist at BYU, said when it is a close call between an LDS and a non-LDS candidate, the member of the LDS church is chosen.

    “Because we do not only look at academic credentials,” Abel said. “We ask our faculty to build character and also faith, if you are a member of the church.”

    “Anyone who says the Honor Code has nothing to do with character, is naive,” Abel said.

    Ilona Klein, associate professor of Italian, has been on several hiring committees. She said that in her experience the academic level is not affected by the preference of LDS faculty.

    “If the candidates are equal, the LDS member is preferred,” Klein said. “Because of the financial aspect of the school, they (the university) has every reason to choose a Mormon.”

    Brent Slife, a full-time professor in psychology, does not feel it is hard to be a minority in a distinct LDS environment. He has taught at various universities, both religious and secular, and said he has not been as free elsewhere.

    “I have greater freedom here,” Slife said. He added that here he can talk about Jesus in relationship with psychology, which was discouraged at other universities.

    Abel said that it depends on the definition of academic freedom, but that in many ways faculty have a broader freedom at BYU than other places.

    “Because this is a private religious university they (faculty) can discuss religion and their own faith and consciousness, which is not easy to do other places,” Abel said.

    Klein said every university has its own mission statement faculty members have to follow.

    “When I came here, I knew about the Honor Code and the guidelines of the church,” Klein said. “I feel honored that I was chosen to represent the Mormon community.”

    According to Cecelia A. Fielding, campus news editor for public communications, around five percent of the faculty are not LDS. She also said this number has stayed about the same for several years.

    Abel said he feels the faculty is stronger now than before.

    “My experience at the university dealing with faculty leads me to a positive feeling about the future of BYU. We hire faculty who are bright and faithful individuals who are improving the quality of the university,” Abel said.

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