Add one more hurdle to the tenure track. It just keeps getting more difficult for profs to climb the proverbial academia ladder. It's not that these teachers aren't publishing, or that they can't handle the stress of 60-plus students in a cramped room with no air conditioning. No, it's just that profs at some universities need to censor their speech, or they could get the boot.
Just ask Gail Houston. Brigham Young U. canned the assistant prof after she (gasp!) publicly advocated praying to a mother in heaven.
Enter the American Association of University Professors. According to the organization, BYU's reason for firing Houston was baloney, so they slapped a censured label on the university. Currently, BYU joins 54 other colleges and universities across the U.S. on the AAUP's list of censured schools. And no, the schools on the list aren't all religious institutions. Other culprits include Alabama State U., New York U. and the U. of Southern California all schools where the AAUP says professors were not allowed to exercise their right to freedom of expression.
College is a place to exchange ideas, say some students, and censoring professors' speech ultimately limits the view points that students are exposed to.
"College students are entitled to their own beliefs," says USC junior Justin Roja. "Force-feeding anyone beliefs is wrong."
But what do the students at the nation's largest church-related university think of their newly acquired status as a censured institution? Apparently not much. "It doesn't bother me at all," says BYU senior Michelle Kowalski. "It's not going to make a difference in our education."
BYU senior Cameron Fuller, a former student of Houston's, sides with the university on the firing. "I remember her talking about a mother in heaven," he says. "Some of the views and opinions she expressed didn't mesh with my personal beliefs. I feel comfortable with the decision BYU made to dismiss her."
But unlike his BYU counterparts, Darrell Williams, the Student Body President at the U. of DC, would like to see his school correct any wrong doings. "It was such a hush-hush deal and they tried not to talk about it," he says. "I think that if it was an injustice, it needs to be corrected." Watch what you say, Williams. It could get you in trouble.
By Troy Foster, Oregon State U./Photo courtesy of Brigham Young U.