The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Fired BYU professors speak out

Cecillia Konchar Farr was hired by Brigham Young University to be a feminist theorist, but after giving what she calls “an anti-abortion, pro-choice” speech at the Capitol she was abruptly fired from the school.

Farr’s job was to teach feminist theory in the English department at the private university owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but says she was given the boot in 1992 for practicing the same theory she taught.

“BYU hired me to be (a) feminist theorist-they fired me for the same reason,” Farr said.

Now, more than ten years later, Farr encourages students to challenge the limits their schools place on academic freedom.

Farr was among three former BYU professors that spoke at a U panel discussion on “Academic Freedom” Thursday night. The forum also featured Amy Wildermuth, a professor in the U Law School.

About 50 students gathered in the Union Ballroom to take part in the more than two-hour discussion.

Jeffrey Nielsen, a former BYU professor who was fired this summer for criticizing LDS church policy toward homosexuals in a newspaper column, also spoke on the panel.

Nielsen said that BYU’s policies can be applied to a “double-truth theory” that states faith and reason are two independent and unrelated modes of inquiry.

It is dangerous when students or any group of people are told to have blind faith and divorce reason from religion, Nielsen said. He argued that people can question certain tents of their religion and still be faithful members.

“Genuine faith has room for doubt,” Nielsen said.

Several of the panel members said BYU’s reputation for silencing academic freedom has hurt its student’s ability to get accepted into different graduate schools.

Jared Kubly, who organized the event for the student government, agreed with the panelists that BYU’s rules can have negative consequences for their students.

“All of a sudden a degree doesn’t count like it should,” Kubly said. “Students suffer when they don’t hear diverse points of view.”

Lennie Mahler

Jeffrey Nielsen discusses academic freedom and BYU’s policy when dealing with a professor whose academic beliefs clash with beliefs of the LDS faith, joined by former BYU faculty Cecilia Farr and others in a panel discussion. Nielsen was let go from BYU after voicing his opinion concerning gay marriage in a letter to The Salt Lake Tribune.

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