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AAUP censures BYU on academic freedom issues

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The American Association of University Professors censured Brigham Young University's administration as expected Saturday for what it terms violations of academic freedom.

Approximately 350 delegates to AAUP's annual conference in Washington, D.C., voted to place BYU on a list of 55 schools it has censured, including the University of Southern California and Westminster College of Salt Lake City.Westminster was cited in 1985 when it abolished tenure for professors.

"This is what we expected," said BYU Associate Academic Vice President Jim Gordon. "The censure means little."

However, Iris Molotsky, director of membership development for AAUP, said the organization regularly gets calls from professors seeking jobs who wonder why a particular school has been censured. In BYU's case, the censure was based primarily on BYU's firing of English professor Gail T. Houston in 1996.

"We do not have any kind of enforcement mechanism," Molotsky said. "But I think it has a great deal of effect."

An AAUP censure is not against the institution or its faculty, but against its present administration. In order to be removed from the list, BYU would need to reverse its decision to fire Houston and bring current practices in line with AAUP's standards concerning academic freedom and tenure, Molot-sky said.

But Gordon said BYU has no plans to seek removal from the censure list. He attributed the censure vote to AAUP's "antipathy toward religious universities" and noted that BYU's accrediting body, the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, cleared the Provo school of allegations of academic freedom violations in 1996.

"We don't believe that further discussions with the AAUP would be productive," he said.

AAUP delegates, most of whom are chapter officers at schools around the country, also voted Saturday to censure the administrations of Lawrence Technological University in Michigan and the University of the District of Columbia.