The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1692 Wednesday, 6 October 1999.
From: Mike Jensen <
Date: Tuesday, 05 Oct 1999 13:34:56 -0700
Subject: Re: Job Opportunities
Comment: SHK 10.1683 Re: Job Opportunities
Since you went to the list with your comments about BYU's hiring
policies (as you warned me you may), I find myself making some comments
publically that I intended to make privately.
As you know, I thought I detected a blind spot in your defense on the
basis of pluralism. I took a few days to think it over because I wanted
to be fair and be sure the blind spot was not my own. I'm now ready to
First a couple of corrections. You perhaps don't recall, but I did say
in my message that I supported a school owned by a religion hiring its
members. You seem to have missed that. The practice seems reasonable
to me, given that the goals of the school are not just educational, but
I did not use the expression "hypocrisy" about your post, but "apparent
hypocrisy" and did so very deliberately. I know that some things that
seem hypocritic to an outsider make sense to those involved. I wanted a
bit of deniablity in case I heard a good explanation. After reading
your response, I'll amend that to "unintended hypocrisy."
I find it ironic that you invoke the concepts of pluralism and
totalitarianism in defense of BYU's preference for Mormon teachers. You
treat these concepts as if they only work in selected realms: BYU needs
to be as Mormon as possible to support pluralism, and if that is not
allowed, it is a kind of totalitarianism.
This seems like a kind of double speak. Pluralism, real pluralism, is
not the ideas of one school against another. It takes place within a
single school, city, or nation. On the campus, real pluralism is when
students are exposed to a variety of ideas. I suggest BYU does not have
real pluralism. You suggest there are a few non-Mormon teachers, though
you don't seem to know them very well. Please explain BYU's pluralism
to Gail Houston, David Wright, Steve Epperson, Martha Nibley Beck,
Cecilia Conchar Farr, David Knowton, and Michael Quill. All have failed
to gain tenure at BYU or lost their positions because they did work
acceptable on nearly any other campus in the nation, but was too against
the party line of your church. To look briefly at two of them, David
Wright after leaving BYU, has pretty much proven that the Book of Mormon
is a 19th Century document, not the ancient document the church claims
it to be. Michael Quinn is a superb historian who published suppressed
church documents that were embarrassing to the church. Both published
what many people believe is the truth, but could not have done so and
stayed at BYU.
Indeed, some of those now working elsewhere have used the word
totalitarianism, but used it to describe the academic atmosphere at your
You see why I find your use of the words pluralism and totalitarianism
Even worse, students are not exposed to a pluralism of ideas. Because I
married into a largely LDS family and many of my wife's old friends are
still temple recommend Mormons, I know about 20 BYU graduates. Their
most common complaint is the lack of diversity to which they were
This is a real shame because once upon a time there was tremendous
respect for academic and scientific learning in the church and at BYU.
Today there is tremendous pressure to conform, which is anathema to real
learning. There used to be leaders who claimed that truth was more
important than conformity and that Mormons should be willing to jettison
the stuff that could not stand up under scrutiny. Now at BYU there is
the sense that students must be protected from viewpoints that the
institution disagrees with at precisely the time in their lives when
they should be learning how to deal with a diversity of viewpoints.
Pluralism? Bruce, we are putting the accents in different places. I
believe I speak of a real pluralism. Your pluralism seems a bit
self-serving to me.
This is especially true in light of the recent decision that local
bishops - usually not academics - now can influence the fate of a BYU
professor. Staff can now be fired from BYU if they do not qualify for a
temple pass. Some have lost their jobs over it. Others, good people,
have resigned in protest, as you well know.
Sure, you can make a case that this is totalitarianism, but pluralism?
This is way off the subject, which was whether or not preferring LDS
hires is out of line with the concept of equal opportunity. Apparently
it is, in legalese. I can accept that. It is a tribute to the legal
profession that they have managed to find a way to reconcile those
concepts. Don't tell Jack Cade.
In closing I want to thank my friend Sheldon for helping me remember
some half the names mentioned above. Bruce, I'll write you off list
about Shakespeare films soon, and I promise in a friendlier tone.
All the best,