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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: October ::
Re: Job Opportunities
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1683  Tuesday, 5 October 1999.

From:           Bruce Young <
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Date:           Monday, 04 Oct 1999 14:50:18 +0000
Subject: 10.1638 Re: Job Opportunities
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1638 Re: Job Opportunities

As the so-called "nice man" who forwarded the job announcement in
question to SHAKSPER, I thought I might respond to some of the
questions.

First, though I'm by no means well versed in the legal questions
involved, I believe Stephen Holcombe is right in his interpretation of
the "equal opportunity" clause.  (He said: "It means that Brigham Young
University follows all USA federal guidelines that prohibit
discrimination based on race, gender, etc. in hiring, but that although
an applicant of any creed will be considered, a member of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints-LDS, or Mormon-will be preferred.")

The wording of the job announcement may seem contradictory at first
glance, but apparently it explicitly follows the legally recommended
wording.  Beyond the legalities, some philosophical and ethical issues
are involved: Should hiring at universities (not to mention other
institutions) be unbiased by factors not related to the job or mission
of the institutions?  And is it right for universities (or other
institutions) to give preference to job candidates with particular
qualifications related to the institutions' missions?  There's maybe a
third question as well, one I really won't get into deeply here: Is it
hypocritical to announce oneself as an equal opportunity employer while
at the same time giving preference in hiring on the basis of some
factors?  (Short answer: The implied meaning of the wording is, I think,
"equal opportunity in all respects except those otherwise indicated."
The exact (explicit) wording may in fact be dictated by legal
requirements.)

On the first question, it has been clear, at least during the time of my
employment here, that  BYU is committed to equal opportunity in hiring
on the basis of race, gender, and national origin.  On the second
question, BYU has chosen to maintain a particular identity in keeping
with its mission of providing both secular and religious education
harmonious with the beliefs of its sponsoring church (The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). And so-in order to retain an
identity as a community of believing Latter-day Saints-hiring is carried
out in such a way that most of those hired are LDS.  Some non-LDS are
hired, so that, even with a predominantly LDS identity, we can benefit
from some diversity of religious perspective as well.  In the English
Department we've had short-term faculty from a variety of religious
backgrounds (I believe including non-Western religions) and have two
permanent non-LDS faculty who've been here for some time, one Catholic,
the other-Leslie Norris, a well-known Welsh poet and short story
writer-of I know not what religious background.  (I could run down the
hall and check, though, if anybody is interested.)

For any who would like to consider a rationale for having a particular
institutional identity-a rationale shared by BYU and some other
religious universities-I can forward a copy of the message I sent to
Mike Jensen, who originally raised the question about the job
announcement.  He and I had been corresponding about other matters, and
so my first response was to him directly.  In a nutshell my view is
this: I deeply value my friendship and association with many people of
various kinds of belief and unbelief.  I have found my own views
deepened and in many ways transformed by trying to take seriously and
understand sympathetically views very different from mine.  But I also
believe genuine pluralism in the public sphere requires that not all
universities be exactly alike, that some have distinctive identities and
missions, including identities and missions linked to religious belief.
Not to allow private universities to have such distinctive identities
seems to me a move toward totalitarianism-at least toward
totalitarianism in the public sphere, even if pluralism is allowed in
private.

On the question of academic freedom at BYU, I would recommend looking at
web sites with BYU policies on academic freedom
(<http://www.byu.edu/response/freedom.htm> &
<http://www.byu.edu/response/procedures.htm>) and responses to the AAUP
(not MLA) censure (<http://www.byu.edu/response/sepresponse.htm> &
<http://www.byu.edu/response/janresponse1.htm>).  For a non-LDS
perspective on BYU-in this case a Jewish one-any who are interested
might look at an article by Ralph Cohen, the Levinas scholar, available
at: <http://www.byu.edu/tmcbucs/fc/ee/w_rc92.htm>.

I'm sure that any of you who've been involved with the press know how
frustrating it is to have people form opinions, based on second-hand
reports, about things you know and are experiencing first hand.  I know
it's hard to suspend judgment on matters we don't really know much about
first hand, but I believe a great deal of prejudice would disappear if
we could somehow make it a rule to do so.

I hope my comments are helpful.

Bruce Young
 

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