The debate over academic freedom at Brigham Young University will soon see an old player return to the scene.

The American Association of University Professors, an organization that describes itself as the only one dedicated to protecting the academic freedom of professors, was last part of the BYU community in the early 1970s when President Ernest L. Wilkinson considered members of the organization "dissidents."Eventually, the organization faded away shortly after Wilkinson's resignation in 1971, when the university formed faculty advisory councils.

"On March 20, 1974, I wrote a letter to all faculty members telling them that we still needed the AAUP as a counterbalance of power," said Burt Wilson, former president of BYU's chapter of the organization who currently works in the university's Redd Center. "Many faculty members thought we wouldn't need the organization anymore."

Later that year, the chapter died.

Since then the AAUP has grown to include members in more than 2,000 institutions nationwide, including local chapters at 800 universities. Meanwhile, questions about academic freedom caused BYU's administration in 1991 to release a statement clearing up its stance on the issue.

Yet, as the local chapter prepares to return to Provo, Scott Abbott says the organization will not take a combative stance against BYU's administration and its academic freedom statement. In fact, Abbott said the AAUP's approach will help BYU's administration in a positive manner.

"A chapter of the AAUP is probably a good thing for any university to have," said Abbott, the chapter's organizer and professor of Slavic and German languages. "It will add an additional perspective and will be another voice in the conversation. We don't see it as directly controversial. We just want to be another voice in the academic freedom forum."

While national AAUP representatives agree with Abbott's approach, they said the organization can be called upon to help ensure that due process is accorded to professors who need it.

"The administration and the organization are to have a common purpose," said Iris Molotsky, AAUP spokeswoman. "But there are times when interests between the two don't always converge. It is then that the chapter will serve as a forum to practice its mission to help protect the professor."

Abbott said brochures have already been sent to several university professors, and many have indicated an interest in joining. He expects the local chapter to have its first meeting in the next week.

BYU Academic Vice President Todd Bristch declined comment on the formation of the organization until official contact is made with the university administration.

"It's clear that our administration is devoted to academic freedom," Abbott said. "We don't see this as a binary opposition where we believe in something and they don't. We all understand it, and the document they released explaining their stance on academic freedom proves it. We don't want to make it seem like we're the only side advocating academic freedom because it's clear the administration advocates it as well."