The Chronicle’s View: Don’t fix something that isn’t broken

In its settlement with Christina Axson-Flynn, the U has promised to create a policy that provides reasonable accommodations to students who feel their firmly held religious beliefs are violated by something at the U. This promise was given to settle the conflict with Axson-Flynn even though the U does not admit it did anything wrong.

Axson-Flynn contends that she was required to swear in an acting class. She says her LDS beliefs forbid her from swearing and that her professors told her she must swear or suffer the academic consequences of not completing an assignment.

Axson-Flynn has become a household name to U students for carrying this battle on long after she dropped out of school and began a family, and because very few people understand exactly what problem she had with the acting department.

It is common knowledge that actors often play characters who use foul language. Few people would agree that being asked to swear for full points on a project equates to religious persecution.

The U’s promise to create a religiously tolerant policy has many afraid that academic freedom (the right of professors to decide what they teach, what is allowed to be said and studied by students and what standards the university sets) will be threatened.

What is perhaps the most confusing aspect of Axson-Flynn’s contention and the U’s promise to create a policy is that the U is already religiously tolerant and willing to make accommodations for students with concerns of any kind.

Professors, mostly of their own free will, already make accommodations to students who have concerns about various assignments for various reasons.

The U’s drama department said it tried to, or at least would have, accommodated Axson-Flynn had she requested it instead of hiring a lawyer.

Even if it did not, it would now, even without the presence of lawyers.

Considering that the U already does what it has promised to do, and considering that changing what is now done may challenge academic freedom, the best thing for the U to do is create a meaningless policy.

The minds of the U’s administrative and legal teams could and should craft a policy that doesn’t mean anything, and most importantly, change anything.

This would quiet fears, preserve the problem-free status quo and silence Axson-Flynn once for all.

The point is that the U’s current policy is not deficient, and that the Axon-Flynn contention is moral fluff at best. The best way to expedite the process and pacify Axon-Flynn is by putting the rules in writing, and for the U to do what’s in its power to maintain the status quo.