By Daniel Singer
A number of departments on campus are facing a shortage of applicants for full-time faculty positions due, at least in part, to BYU”s stringent requirements for potential faculty employees.
Recently, the sociology department had three openings for professors, but only one applicant.
Dr. Vaughn Call, chair of the department of sociology, said a shortage of applicants is not a new problem.
“Because BYU has strict guidelines for who we hire, we have fewer applicants to choose from,” Call said. “I think that”s common knowledge.”
Lynn England, a professor of sociology and member of the department”s hiring committee, explained that when applicants are turned down they are not usually given a reason why, and that a possible reason for the fewer number of applicants is an atmosphere of limited academic freedom.
“There are some people who simply won”t apply for positions at BYU,” England said. “Either because they”ve been discouraged by their mentors or because they”re wary of not being allowed to teach what they”re used to.”
Dr. Ed Adams, chair of the communications department, did not see academic freedom as an issue at all.
“Traditionally we have had problems filling some of our positions,” Adams said. “We have a two-fold problem with filling positions. We require professors to not only have extensive career experience, but a Ph. D. also, and we are also required to give preference to LDS applicants.”
BYU”s employment Web site states that strong preference is given to LDS applicants for positions. According to the Web site, “LDS faculty also accept as a condition of employment the standards of conduct consistent with qualifying for temple privileges.”
All faculty, regardless of their faith, are required to abide by the University”s grooming and behavior standards.
BYU”s policy on academic freedom is one of pluralism, anti-dogmatism and religious freedom. According to the Statement on Academic Freedom at BYU, these values make the university “better able to resist the popular currents of majoritarian culture and thus to preserve the seeds of dissent and alternative understandings that may later be welcomed by the wider society.”
The statement admits that limitations are placed on academic freedom at BYU, but only under three circumstances: when a professor directly contradicts or opposes church doctrine, deliberately attacks the church or its leaders or encourages illegal, unchaste or profane behavior.
Despite spelled-out freedoms for professors, some applicants fear that they will be inhibited while teaching at BYU.
England gave the example of a self-proclaimed feminist who declined to apply for a professorship because she believed she wouldn”t have the academic freedom to express her views.
The English department currently has enough applicants to fill its open positions, but a representative of the department admitted that the pool of applicants is much smaller than many other schools because of the university”s emphasis on hiring LDS applicants.
Other departments have had success in finding applicants in recent years. Dr. Lynn Garner, chair of the department of mathematics, has too many LDS applicants for his faculty openings.
“For years we had problems filling faculty positions because we tend to hire LDS applicants, but in the last few years we have seen tremendous increases in the number of applicants for our positions,” Garner said. “In fact, we have too many applicants for our available positions.”
Garner said that the department of mathematics” situation is special because in recent years other universities have started having problems filling their open mathematics positions.
Many students didn”t regard academic freedom as a major issue on campus.
“Before I came to BYU, I was wary of the school”s reputation,” said Jordan Carpenter, a third-year law student from Plano, Texas. “I chose to do my undergraduate work at Texas because I was worried about being limited. But since I”ve been here I have found that BYU is a bastion of free thinking and academic liberalism. It”s really the Berkeley of the West.”
Other students felt that BYU wanted to ensure students received a valuable education.
“I think professors aren”t going to teach anything that they feel BYU wouldn”t like,” said Carolyn Evans, a sophomore from Lebanon, Ore., majoring in chemistry. “But I also don”t think that BYU is going to limit what teachers say. They want us to have a well-rounded education.”