Faculty Demographics at BYU

A couple weeks ago, President Nelson issued a joint statement with the NAACP condemning racial injustice. Toward the end of that statement, they said:

We likewise call on government, business, and educational leaders at every level to review processes, laws, and organizational attitudes regarding racism and root them out once and for all.

(Emphasis mine.) It occurred to me that, while at BYU-P, very few of my professors were people of color. (It’s been a couple decades, so my memory isn’t perfect, but as best I can remember, I had two Brazilian professors, which is probably the closest I came.) I wondered what BYU faculty looks like today.

It isn’t pretty. 

A quick acknowledgment and a caveat here. First, the acknowledgment: while academia writ large says it believes in inclusion, we haven’t been spectacularly successful at implementing that inclusion. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 76% of full-time faculty at degree-granting postsecondary institutions are white. By contrast, in the broader US population, only about 60% of us are white non-Hispanic. Six percent of full-time faculty are Black, while more than 13% of the general population is.

This is inexcusable. And it doesn’t get any better if we compare it to the demographics of college students. About 53% of undergrads are non-Hispanic white, while slightly over 15% are Black. Among grad students, about 61% are non-Hispanic white, while slightly over 12% are Black.

If academia at large lacks diversity as compared with the broader population, BYU really lacks diversity. I looked through most (maybe all?) of the faculty pages on BYU’s website to look at the number of women and faculty of color. I only counted full-time faculty who were full professors, associate professors, and assistant professors. Why? I wanted to focus on the full-time hiring, and I wanted to focus on the most prestigious roles in the university. That means I didn’t count, for example, visiting professors or Teaching Professors. (Why didn’t I count Teaching Professors? Because I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I suspect it’s something like a Lecturer at other schools—a non-tenure-stream position.)

And here’s the caveat: I based my evaluation of race primarily on the faculty member’s appearance. Sometimes, that’s not a good marker. It’s clearly possible that I counted someone as white who was actually a faculty member of color or vice versa. Mostly, I think my visual pick is right, but I may be slightly off. (Gender was presumably easier—because of BYU’s policies, I suspect that gender presentation in a faculty photo was accurate.)

And the (unscientific) results? Of the 1,042 faculty I looked at, 213 are women and 35 are faculty of color. (You can see my breakdown by department or school here.[fn1])

In other words, a fraction more than 20% of BYU’s faculty are women. (About 46% of full-time faculty nationwide are women.) And just over 3% (3.36% to be precise) are non-white and/or Latinx.

Some departments do better than others, of course. More than 67% of nursing faculty are women (though only 2.5% are faculty of color). And 73% of the dance faculty are women (with 20% faculty of color!).

That 20% of dance faculty is by far the high for faculty of color, though. Four other units that I measured have double digits. A full 24 of the 39 units I counted didn’t have a single faculty member of color. Of the 125 faculty members in the business school that I counted, two were faculty of color. Two.

The worst department for diversity though? Geography. Of the 12 tenure-stream faculty, there was not a single woman or person of color.

And look, even if we don’t want to use the U.S. population or general faculty as our comparison, BYU still doesn’t look very good. About 81% of the BYU student body is white non-Hispanic. And the student body is about 50/50 female-male.

Does the racial and gender composition of the faculty matter? Absolutely. It provides role models for students, and provides diverse voices and experiences that will allow students to better navigate their post-college life, among other things.

But even if it didn’t have practical benefits, our prophet demanded that we root out racism at every level, including the educational level.

Even if nobody at BYU is actively racist (and honestly, none of the faculty I know there is), BYU’s system of hiring suffers from significant systemic racism (and systemic gender discrimination). Systemic racism doesn’t require that the school actively try to discriminate—the systems that make it harder for people of color and for women to get faculty jobs have been in place for a long time.[fn2] To dismantle them—to root out this systemic racism—will take active effort by BYU.

Because faculty of color don’t just magically appear. And their lack at BYU isn’t just because there aren’t enough people of color with Ph.D.s. It’s in part because of BYU’s hiring policies. I’m not privy to most of its hiring policies, so I don’t know all of the impediments. I do know, though, that by default, faculty is likely to hire faculty that went to their same schools, that share their values, and who look like them.[fn3]

And who looks like BYU faculty? Pretty much white men.

“But wait!” you say. “BYU basically only hires Mormons, and there aren’t that many Mormons of color who have the qualifications to teach at BYU.”

I have no idea if there are Mormons of color with the credential BYU is looking for. But assume that there aren’t: BYU made the deliberate decision to hire only Mormons. If that policy keeps professors of color out, it’s the result of a deliberate choice BYU made, a deliberate choice that entrenches racial discrimination. If that’s the problem, BYU needs to evaluate that policy against the prophetic directive to root out racism in education.

It’s not impossible. It’s also not easy. But it’s a critical move, one that BYU needs to make to move to a place of racial justice.

[fn1] I realize that sometimes I counted by the school level, sometimes at the department level. How I did it depended on how the school or the department listed faculty pictures. Frankly, the most annoying was the School of Business, where I had to click on every single name (125 of them!) to see faculty pictures.

[fn2] Same with discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

[fn3] My friend, the pseudonymous lawprofblog, wrote this about law school faculty hiring: “The goal?  Hire a candidate who looks and acts exactly like them.  Just kidding.  But that is often what happens.  Because law professors tend to suck at hiring.  Don’t get me wrong, you deserved to be hired.  But most of us who don’t fit a particular pattern or mold often feel like we were some sort of accident or fluke.  The reason is that law schools lack diversity.” (Note that in deference to lawprofblog’s strongly held opinion, I included two spaces after each period in the quotation.)


  1. Faculty is probably down stream, BYUs student body that graduated in 2018 (Look at the IPEDS data center) is a tad more diverse than the University of Utah as far as the number of American Indian/Alaskan Natives and Polynesians. But both are under 1%. Both schools graduate fewer than 100 African American students each year. The UofU has about double the Latinx population. BYU is better at having minority groups graduate than Utah or the average, but there aren’t a lot there. What can BYU do to get a more diverse student body?

  2. Billy Possum says:


    Thanks for the post – a challenge for BYU, indeed.

    Thought I’d point out, though, that the horns of your appearance-isn’t–race dilemma actually say the same thing, as written now. The horn you’re missing is that you may have counted someone who is actually white as a faculty member of color.

  3. Thanks, Billy Possum. That’s what I meant, and I’ve revised the language so that it’s accurate.

    RL, it’s true that BYU’s student body is diversifying, and that’s a great trend. But there’s no reason BYU needs to wait for a diversified student body to work its way through grad school before it can diversify its faculty. If it primarily hires its own grads (again, I don’t know if it does or not), that’s a choice it has made, not a mandate. If it wants a more diverse faculty (something it should want for the sake of its students, its teaching/research, and for the sake of fulfilling prophetic directive), it needs to actively search out faculty of color (and women). And that will probably require that it change some of its hiring policies. But it absolutely cannot afford to wait until 5-ish years after its student body is more diverse to make its faculty more diverse.

  4. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I live in an area where there are over 100 graduate students in our Stake at any given time. The pipeline for potential faculty that would increase diversity at BYU isn’t looking good. BYU can’t wait for their current student body to work its way through. It would take too long, and it won’t be enough. Changes in hiring policies and actively recruiting faculty from other institutions (and making those offers appealing and competitive) will be required to make a difference. I’m pessimistic.

  5. Since Utah has been (in the past, it is no longer true) primarily white, what did you expect? I have had nieces graduate from BYU (both Idaho and in Utah) and they had friends among the student body across ALL demographics. Why isn’t the the most qualifications for a teaching post the ‘gold’ standard and not race? People who have reached college or university age and are studying ought to be focusing on learning the lessons that life will throw at them, and not grousing about what is a fact, and what is (even slowly) changing. Let it come in its time and stop throwing more fuel on what is already a huge fire. We ought to be finding our similarities and not our differences in my opinion.

  6. Sadly, I know that BYU has low recruitment and retention rate for faculty of color, especially women in general, which I can say as a Diné (Navajo) Latter-day Saint professor. Also please see my blog piece about a petition for BYU to recognize Native Americans and include Native Americans in the newly appointed committee to address issues of race and inequality: https://farinaking.com/2020/06/20/native-american-representation-in-higher-ed-committees-on-race-and-inequality/. Thank you for this post and article.

  7. I think you have to understand the mentality of BYU student parents and the mission of BYU to understand why its students and faculty reflect the US LDS population which is mostly white.

    Unlike most universities, which try to challenge its students with new ideas and perspectives, BYU is in the business of reinforcing previously held beliefs of its students. You parents who send your kids to BYU know what you are doing. Aside from saving a lot of money (since BYU is so much cheaper than the alternatives), you send your kids there knowing that if they went in politically conservative and active in the Church, that’s the way they are probably going to come out. That’s the goal. And you are comforted in the fact that 98% of the student population (and maybe faculty population) is LDS.

    As for the university’s mission, they are in the business of training future LDS leaders. They don’t want a bunch of BLM and gay rights noise makers infecting the environment. They want kids who graduated from LDS Seminary who will be the future leaders of their wards and stakes. Therefore, it does not bother them (BYU Admissions) at all that 98% of the students are LDS. And I assume the same holds for the faculty.

    In sum, most universities strive for diversity because they are trying to cater to a diverse student population. BYU is non-diverse because it is catering to the 98% and their parents.

  8. There is a relatively good pipeline of Hispanic and Latin American academics, but I suspect that, at BYU especially, using the term “latinx” will not help recruit them. That’s a term made up by academics to cater to anglophones’ sense of gender.

  9. Billy Possum says:

    Out of curiosity (not in the interest of hijacking), could anyone point me to some social science about the rate at which Latinx individuals tend to “pass” as white among their white-identifying peers? Sam’s post brought this to mind when he specifically mentioned Latinx BYU faculty, who are presumably Mormon. Anecdotally and experientially, I’ve noticed a significant number of Mormon Latinx academics and students who are white-passing (including my wife who is fair-skinned and, because she elected to take my name, no longer uses her Mexican surname).

    I doubt it would dramatically affect Sam’s estimates, but my suspicion is that Mormonism’s strong Latin American ties, combined with its anglophone and US-dominated leadership culture, might meaningfully increase the rate at which Mormons who personally identify as Latinx are misperceived as white by the casual (and white) observer.

  10. C. Keen says:

    Sam, for me as a parent of BYU students, it’s more important to me that their faculty are faithful, academically qualified members of the church than that they are diverse. I would prefer both, but I’ll only insist on the first two. For my kids, it’s their identity as members of the church that I need the university to form at this point in their lives by providing appropriate teachers and role models, not their membership in a particular gender or race. Diversifying faculty is good, but it’s not an absolute good that outweighs academic qualification and faithfulness.

    I know BYU-Provo has some nonmember faculty, and in those cases the school definitely should be able to diversify, but I would actually prefer the university to only hire members of the church.

  11. As a tenured faculty member at BYU who has been part of many hiring discussions, I want to add more detail where you left off, Sam. The policy to hire only Church members in good standing is, without a doubt, the primary reason there aren’t more professors of color at BYU. And that’s because Church members that get PhDs have historically been disproportionately white men. So you don’t think the issue is ignored, every accrediting body raises it as a major concern for every program on campus.

    It would be easy to leave it there and say that we can’t hire LDS candidates that are women or BIPOC if they don’t exist. But that just ignores the systemic issues that create the current circumstances. This is why our department has been actively recruiting and supporting (with things like graduate test help) more women and people of color into our master’s degree and have seen steady progress. For the last few years, we’ve enrolled more women than men. More women and BIPOC masters students, along with a pre-PhD track of classes, means a more diverse set of candidates in the near future. Like most departments on campus, we don’t have our own PhD program to directly produce more diverse PhDs.

    Another challenge with hiring more black professors, in particular, is that most black members of the Church don’t live in the US. That means we have to cultivate more international students. This is a good and important thing we should do anyway, but also adds to the challenges of getting a more diverse faculty.

    I don’t know how many other departments are pursuing the same strategy as ours, but I know we’re not the only ones. It’s the kind of thing that is (1) in the power of BYU faculty, and (2) works at a systemic level as needs to happen anyway. It may be that the Board of Trustees makes room to hire non-LDS professors of color, but until then there’s plenty we can do that makes a big difference. We still have a long way to go, though, so we’re in it for the long haul.

  12. Billy, I agree. There are definitely errors in my count which affect it to some extent. I suspect it’s a matter of a couple percentage points at most, but without the school providing demographic data, it’s the best I could do.

    C. Keen, I have the opposite concern. My daughters are very math/science oriented. If they choose to go to BYU, though, the current pool of women role models and mentors in those areas is fairly thin (numerically, I mean—I have no doubt the women there are excellent). I have absolutely no doubt that BYU will provide them with excellent religious role models. But I want them to see people who look like them, who have the same issues as them. (And I say this as the white father of white daughters: students of color at BYU have exponentially fewer role models who look like them and have similar experiences.)

    There’s no qualification issue: while the academy is insufficiently diverse, there are plenty of professors of color (and Ph.D. candidates of color) who have the academic rigor and credentials BYU is looking for. BYU just has to actively recruit them and, as Turtle points out, provide competitive and attractive packages.

  13. Melanie B Cee asks “Why isn’t the the most qualifications for a teaching post the ‘gold’ standard and not race?”

    I responded to this in the OP, but I’ll briefly reiterate: there are basically two answers. The first is, we don’t have to hire unqualified people to diversify the faculty. There are (for better or worse) way more people graduating from Ph.D. programs than there are faculty positions available. It’s a buyers market. (Also, it’s possible to hire laterally from other schools.)

    Second, though, if we ignore race, faculty will largely reproduce itself, recruiting from the schools that current faculty went to, and recruiting people who look like them. Since BYU faculty is overwhelmingly white, that means that without actual sustained effort to diversify, it won’t diversify. And that’s both harmful and in direct contravention of prophetic directive.

  14. And thanks for the info, Aaron. It’s good to hear that your department is making a sustained effort to diversify!

  15. Wondering says:

    “We likewise call on government, business, and educational leaders at every level to review processes, laws, and organizational attitudes regarding racism and root them out once and for all.” It seems to me that this statement is unfortunately ambiguous — a result of sloppy diction. After all, processes and laws designed to preclude or remedy racism are processes and laws “regarding” racism. Anti-racist organizational attitudes are attitudes “regarding” racism. I wish they’d said something about rooting out racist processes, laws and attitudes rather than processes, laws, and attitudes “regarding” racism.

    But seriously, if, as many assume, BYU has a mission to be something other than a secular university, then its decision to hire a primarily Mormon, qualified faculty may result in a primarily “white” faculty without there being any racism currently involved. It would be a decision based on religion, though it would have results for racial diversity. So, it’s difficult for me to see how it “entrenches racial discrimination.” Assuming that a difference between percentages of non-“whites” in an organization and percentages of non-“whites” in some broader sector of society is an indication of racial discrimination rather than merely of possible racial discrimination, I wonder why the BYU-relevant broader sector of society should be the broader US population or even US college students, rather than the population of Mormon college students willing commit to the BYU honor code. After all, BYU has also expected its faculty, including its non-Mormon faculty, to abide by its standards with respect to alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and sex — and not only on campus. Those standards and the religious goals of BYU seem to some to make the broad US population or US college students an irrelevant comparison. Unless, of course, one first assumes that percentage racial diversity in faculty and student body is a BYU goal that takes precedence over its religious and behavioral goals. I rather doubt that President Nelson intended any such precedence by his subscribing to the joint statement.

    Though old and anecdotal, I have heard stories of non-Mormons turning down offered BYU faculty positions because of the behavioral code. There was also at least in some past years, a significant effort to recruit non-Mormon hispanic students to the BYU law school in order to beef-up its minority student body percentages. The comment I heard from telephone recruiters was that there was often interest expressed by such prospective students, but such interest commonly died immediately upon explanation of the behavioral honor code. (I suspect that efforts to recruit “white,” non-Mormon US students would have the same result.)

    It would seem that low percentages of minority faculty are a very good reason to re-examine hiring practices for racism. It does not seem to me that they are by themselves (or in comparison to general US population or college student percentages) conclusive on there being current racist practices. While BYU has avoided the language of “tenure,” its “continuing status” category is rather like tenure in some ways, so that past, but now possibly non-existent, racist hiring practices could continue to have an effect on faculty minority percentages. While I appreciate and applaud the OP’s call to examine and root out any racist attitudes and practices, It seems to me that the situation is vastly more complicated than seems to be acknowledged by the OP’s statistical comparisons.

    I believe there is potentially great educational value in having a qualified and diverse faculty and student body, but racial diversity is not the only goal and probably not the primary goal of BYU. Qualification and behavioral standards remain important to BYU, even in the process of rooting out any remaining racist practices or attitudes,

    Diversity has long been an admission goal, e.g. of Harvard law school (and others), but education should be the primary goal. The issue reminds me on occasion that the stupidest law clerk I’ve worked with in nearly 40 years of practice was a Harvard law school student — and I’ve seen some doozies from other schools. Incidentally, the stupidest was “white” — I suspect admitted on geographical diversity rather than racial diversity. Geographical, gender, and racial-diversity motivated admissions to a student body can reasonably afford more qualification mistakes that geographical, gender, or racial-diversity motivated faculty hiring. It may be difficult, but BYU should make the effort to hire a qualified, racially diverse, and gender diverse faculty as positions become open. Because of the sometimes negative educational influence of intermountain west Mormon provincialism, geographical diversity might be an appropriate consideration also.

  16. STEM faculty not at BYU says:

    As an academic family – my husband and I both have STEM PhDs and are active members – I see a couple issues. First, I don’t think BYU is very familiar with members with PhDs who do not have a connection to BYU or Utah. This will automatically make their hiring pool less diverse. Second, BYU has a weak or non-existent graduate program in many fields. This can make running a successful research lab very difficult as you have to rely mostly on undergraduates. And this can make BYU a less attractive option for a long-term STEM research career than other places, even if their salary is competitive. Third, I also get the impression that BYU thinks most members would drop anything to get a job at BYU and their hiring process (at least when my husband applied there) seemed to reflect that. The cycle seemed long, drawn-out, tentative, and very much a good-ol’ boys kind of feeling compared to other universities my husband has interviewed and worked. I personally would rather my children (all sons) not attend BYU because I want them to see a diverse faculty, particularly women faculty, in places of influence. It is essential for them to be used to being taught by women and diverse people – especially if they aren’t getting that from church either – to be really ready to be in the real world.

  17. Wondering, this is the significant problem: systemic racism doesn’t require any given person to be racist. I would guess that few of BYU’s faculty are racist. But there’s a system at BYU that favors white faculty (and male faculty) at the expense of faculty of color. While we may not know entirely how that system operates, or why it was implemented, we know the results: something around 3-4% of faculty at BYU are persons of color. To fix that problem—and it is a problem—BYU needs to change something. Aaron mentions changes his department is making to actively produce the diverse faculty they want to eventually hire. But that’s not the kind of thing that happens if BYU just maintains the status quo or throws up its arms in defeat.

    And while that’s important, it’s probably not enough by itself. BYU really needs to reexamine its hiring policies. What does it hope to get out of, for instance, hiring almost exclusively Mormon faculty? Do the benefits of that policy outweigh the detriments of having a nearly entirely white faculty? How about compensation? How about teaching packages? Where does BYU recruit faculty? How does it find the faculty it recruits? Does the administration veto candidates that the faculty wants? Etc.

    And this is critical: systemic racism—what I’m talking about—doesn’t require racist intent. But to dismantle it requires recognition and active work.

  18. farinaking, thank you for the link and for the reminder that having a diverse faculty doesn’t end at recruitment. I know that’s generally where my mind goes, but it’s critical that once a school hires faculty of color, it needs to provide a reason for them to stay.

  19. anon for this says:

    I’m a BYU faculty member in one of the campus’s largest departments and I have been involved in hiring decisions for many years. A little view from the inside: our hiring committee is absolutely prohibited from interviewing anyone who isn’t cleared by the administration (at the direction of the Board of Trustees), and clearances have been denied even for temple recommend-holding applicants based on local leaders’ lack of support, which may be withheld for any reason (an example: one applicant’s failure to campaign for Prop 8). As you might imagine, such obstructions arise more often with candidates who are not white dudes. Add this layer of subjective gatekeeping to a larger cultural environment that discourages women from seeking careers and to a church culture that is most hospitable to white men and it’s not hard to see how even a vigorous mentoring and outreach efforts by departments like mine have resulted in faculty demographics that do not reflect our own enrolled students’, let alone the country’s.

  20. Wondering says:

    Sam, exactly. You have now posed questions on matters that do need serious examination.
    But comparing percentages of minority BYU faculty to percentages of minorities in the general US or general US college student population also doesn’t conclusively show systemic racism unless that is your definition of systemic racism. (I have had trouble sometimes trying to discern what various people’s definitions of “systemic racism” are.) I suspect a continuing contributing factor in the low percentages of minority BYU faculty is the predominantly white faculty’s sometimes preferring to hire their friends or prior acquaintances, and seeking other applications only to make it look like they did a real search. Within the last few years there are again anecdotal reports of that happening. I saw it happening in the 70s in a commercial/government contractor setting — including our efforts there to implement “affirmative action” in a traditionally significantly segregated metropolitan area in the northern US. I think it’s a natural human behavior that would take some extraordinary effort to curtail. I think you already pointed to it as a faculty/administrator preference to hire people who look like them. I hope the situation at BYU can improve. I suspect the current BYU president is positioned to have greater success in pursuing that than earlier ones.

  21. HomeinUtah says:

    Thank you for doing this analysis. This is important information. You might also want to consider student attitudes towards female or non-white professors as part of your analysis.

    As an FYI, you should include teaching professors in your count. They have the potential to be tenured and many of them are. The only difference is that they have chosen to focus on teaching instead of research so they teach more classes. I know a professor in a tenure line who switched from research to teaching. She is still tenured or has continuing faculty status as they say at BYU.

  22. Sam is a highly educated, intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful person and I have respected his posts over the years. I appreciate this current dialogue. I think I understand where he is coming from and the points he is trying to make. Perhaps my disagreement on some points in this post comes down to semantics, which is actually quite important as words influence attitudes which influence policy.

    While diversity is important and a lofty goal, I do not automatically equate the lack of diversity to racism or systemic racism. Often racism or systemic racism is the direct cause for the lack of diversity, but it should not automatically be attributed. Perhaps we just have different definitions of racism and systemic racism. My definitions do not rely on disparate outcomes, recognizing that outcomes are derived through multiple variables, of which racism or systemic racism may or may not be at play. Numerous social studies have concluded that different educational and career outcomes amongst sexes/genders and races cannot be wholly attributed to bias or discrimination. True, much of the disparity we see and experience is a direct result of sexism and racism, I cannot deny that fact. All I am saying is that it is a bit more tricky to just lay disparate outcomes at BYU to systemic racism (unless of course that is how you define systemic racism). A deeper analysis into the recruiting and hiring, tenure and promotion, processes is required. Maybe BYU does suffer from systemic racism in this area; but I have not been presented with the evidence (to me a simple accounting of the racial makeup is not evidence).

    I would love to see more faculty and staff diversity at BYU. I think the students are underserved without it. I think the biggest hurdle BYU faces is the extreme restrictions and requirements of the honor code or behavioral codes forced upon the faculty. If BYU ever really wants a diverse faculty they will have to reach outside of temple recommend holding members. (Oh, I’m not implying there aren’t any temple recommend holding minority candidates out there, I just want more diversity.)

  23. HomeinUtah, thanks. I’d go back to include teaching professors, except that this is just a blog post and I’ve already spent way too much time counting faculty. IIRC, though, there were a lot of men and women in those roles, so I don’t know that it would substantively change the gender percentages. And they were mostly white, so I don’t know that it would substantively change the racial percentages.

    Still, if anybody feels like recounting (and catching my errors!), I’d totally welcome it.

  24. your food allergy is real says:

    I think in your emphasizing the role of systemic racism here you let individual racism off the hook. It is too comfortable to say “systemic racism doesn’t require any person to be racist” or “I would guess that few of BYU’s faculty are racist.” I would guess quite differently, and would have a similar view of any university or community of human beings. I think most of us have some subtle racist assumptions we are not willing to admit or recognize. I think these tendencies do in fact allow systemic racism to persist. I think we each need to take a really hard look at ourselves. Maybe I’m revealing too much about my own insecurity with this and unfairly assuming the same of others. But I don’t think so.

  25. BYUSTEMStudent says:

    Some thoughts. I have had some professors who are not members of the Church in my BYU career. While BYU would definitely prefer to hire individuals who are members of the Church, especially in the religion department, they will hire any candidate who agrees to live the Honor Code for almost all Faith’s that I’ve seen. That’s just my experience based upon lengthy conversations with a dozen or so professors in STEM fields.

  26. food allergy, that’s likely. Still, I suspect that the systemic issues outweigh the individual issues (though it’s clearly possible that I’m wrong).

    BYUSTEMStudent, BYU has an administrative policy that makes it really, really hard to hire non-Mormon faculty. It’s great that you’ve had non-Mormon professors, but that’s definitely the exception.

  27. anon for this says:

    BYUSTEMStudent: Depends on the dept. Some depts beyond religion cannot hire nonmembers, no matter how they might be willing to uphold the honor code. This is more true on the “dangerous,” rabble-rousing humanities side of campus than on the STEM side. My dept cannot hire nonmenbers. I have receipts.

  28. here’s some perspective: the BYU football and basketball head coaches (but necessarily other sports) are required to be LDS. So that limits the pool of qualified coaches available. Think of that when you think about BYU’s hiring practices.

  29. When you’re hiring a computer science professor, do you higher the one with more experience or the one who is not-white but lesser experienced?

    I can see how it some fields diversity might be a key component of the job description so to speak. But if it is, that’s at least evidence in itself of systemic racism. I hope we wouldn’t suggest an African can’t teach a European art history class if properly qualified. To suggest some fields are better taught by Blacks, Asians, etc. would have to suggest some are better taught by Whites. Clearly if you’re teaching Swahili linguistic history, you’ll most likely end up with a black teacher. But that’s a correlation, not a necessary performance driver as a result of skin color.

    The reality is if you want to excel in to subject area you always higher the best, without regard to skin color.

    If you want to prioritize human experience over maximum excellence within a subject matter, you give more weight to diversity.

    I think as long as you’re willing to acknowledge that trade-off it’s just a preference bias whichever way you choose.

    But we shouldn’t pretend there are no downsides to deliberately not picking the most qualified candidate. And there’s also downsides to picking a lesser or equal tie breaker candidate based on skin color. A white expat with 10 years life experience in Nigeria might understand issues of race a lot more than a black Provo raised applicant.

    And that’s completely ignored in this “analysis” you offer. Sorry, I don’t think President Nelson’s quote can be stretched to be used the way you suggest in embracing quotas or such superficial standards as you undertake — that doesn’t mean the board shouldn’t direct BYU to try to find more diverse professors etc. But it should never come at the expense of rejecting a more qualified applicant. And if systemic racism/sexism is defined as “reduce white male majority wherever it’s found”, you’re bound to only create more contention; and likely reduce overall competency in the process.

  30. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    It is so important to understand that technical expertise or specific proficiency are not necessarily what makes a potential faculty member the most qualified candidate. I’m really tired of the argument that the goal should be to hire the candidate with the most experience/expertise/competence, regardless or race or gender. As an academic, I’ll confess that those who are most proficient in an area are often not the most competent at passing that proficiency along to others. Beyond teaching proficiency, an ability to connect with students, to mentor them, to help them make connections with others in the field or in the workforce community are SO IMPORTANT, and are often overlooked in hiring decisions. These do not need to be overlooked. Also, it not like these folks are incompetent in their field, either. BYU can absolutely hire more diverse faculty without sacrificing any degree of competence. And they will be rewarded with a student experience that is more engaging, more productive, has more breadth, and leads to better career outcomes. Hiding behind the “most qualified applicant” argument is just that – hiding.

  31. Sute, you’re making a lot of (unfounded) assumptions here. There’s no reason to believe that candidates of color are less qualified than white candidates, unless maybe your “qualification” requirements include temple-recommend-holding member of the church.

    There’s also no reason to think that qualifications are binary (which is similar). How do you measure “best,” especially when you’re looking at an entry-level candidate? You can look at pedigree, but as lawprofblog has clearly demonstrated, pedigree reinforces current bias. Like, am I a better professor because I went to Columbia Law than my colleague and friend who teaches and researches in the same areas and went to LSU? (Answer: absolutely not.)

    Even the seemingly-objective measures we use don’t predict a candidate’s success. Have I published half a dozen articles before being hired? Maybe that’ll mean I’m going to be super-productive. Or maybe it means that I had familial support that allowed me leisure to write, while another potential candidate had to work in a lab to support their family.

    So sure there are trade-offs. But the trade-offs don’t have to be about quality, and assuming that women and professors of color are inferior to white professors is both a wrong and a harmful attitude to take.

  32. Wondering says:

    Just out of curiosity, I checked to see if a similar statistical analysis could be done from the Albany State University website. (Albany State is one of a number of HBCUs – historically black colleges or universities.) I gave up after finding more faculty listed with “no photograph available” than I cared to deal with. Despite Albany State’s policy: “The University is … an equal opportunity and equal rights employer in that all applicants for faculty, staff, and student employment positions are considered without regard to race, religion, sex, disability, or national origin,” its Fact Book 2018-2019 reports employees by race as majority black and very far out of line with the percentages by race of the US population and the US college student population. https://www.asurams.edu/docs/institutional-effectiveness/Fact-Book-2018-2019.pdf#search=race p.95. Is that “systemic racism”? A failure to achieve “racial justice”?

    BTW, This item of curiosity about “systemic racism” and how to see if it exists in a particular organization does not imply that BYU should be off-the-hook as to serious reexamination of its hiring practices or as to any of the questions Sam posed in that connection.

  33. Also, what A Turtle Named Mack said.

  34. The BYU’s are not representative of the Church as a whole. And this is a major problem. As they are now, the Church provides a heavily subsidized university education to middle-class Americans. You can argue that it is middle-class Americans who pay the tithing to subsidize the BYU’s, so they should get the benefits, but that doesn’t sound very Christ-like.

    Half the Church members now live in developing countries. That alone should be a strong justification for improving the racial balance of the students and staff at the BYU’s. Mormonism is a global religion, we need to start reflecting that in our education systems. Education is a great way to help elevate members out of poverty.

    An alternative to heavily subsidizing the BYU’s would be to provide financial assistance to worthy members irregardless of where they choose to go to university. This would open things up to Africans and Latin Americans. It would also put pressure on the BYU’s to improve.

  35. A quick review of the BYU Religious Education Faculty is instructive.


  36. also anon says:

    Serious question. Which is more likely to happen first and why: a woman is made president of BYU or a woman is made dean of the College of Religious Education?

    You could, of course, try to imagine a woman of color as either, but that seems quite beyond the realm of possibility on any meaningful timescale.

    A related point: until you have been privy to reading over student comments on female professors in course reviews, you really can’t understand how prevalent and severe the sexism can be at BYU. Again, you may exercise your imagination about the hurdles a woman of color would face here. Not that long ago I was a student at BYU, had Randy Bott as a professor, and was taught unabashedly all the racist stuff the church is now tripping over itself to erase.

    A final point. For white readers here from the Intermountain West who do not see any real issue, ballpark your comfort level of attending a HBCU in, say, North Carolina. Ah. There it is.

  37. Jack Hughes says:

    BYU has a diversity problem because the Church has a diversity problem. The membership of my own ward, in a west coast university town, is almost exclusively white, which is not at all representative of the community. Perhaps we need to fix that first, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

    If BYU is serious about diversity, they are going to have to do something significant; feeble attempts at diversifying appear as tokenism (which BYU and the Church are already skilled at–just look at the Tabernacle Choir). One possible solution is to open BYU up to more non-LDS students and faculty. About 20% of Notre Dame students are non-Catholic. That seems like a fair target. LDS students will also benefit by being exposed to more diverse points of view. This will, in turn, bring racial diversity as well.

    Some of BYU’s senior leadership positions (including president) have a priesthood requirement. Since those requirements are arbitrary and non-doctrinal, get rid of them. Let women compete for those positions.

    Another possible solution (and much less practical) is to order missionaries to focus their proselytizing efforts on educated people of color.

  38. Anon 29 says:

    Speaking as a woman STEM researcher whom BYU began very transparently trying to cultivate as a future hire while I was an undergrad (and still trying now): the requirement to hire only orthodox church members as faculty is going to kill the university. It very seriously undermines any chance of diversifying faculty race and sex, as Sam and commenters have already extensively talked about. But, as several commenters have also demonstrated, much of the church and BYU community isn’t much bothered about prioritizing diversity. Therefore I want to explicitly bring up how else this requirement threatens the foundations of the university.

    BYU used to competitively hire the most qualified candidates, with a preference but not requirement for members. I’m not sure exactly when that changed, perhaps around the 1990s. Therefore, for most of living memory, there have been a mix of member and nonmember faculty, but we are on the dwindling end with only a few very senior nonmember professors left. When I left BYU for grad school, I was floored to trip over and over again on how poorly regarded BYU is professionally. I was met with skepticism as to whether I really had the minimum qualifications for my area of study many times. I was treated as likely to be bigoted many times. I had extra difficulty finding mentors in grad school, as they would first want to ask me a series of pointed and distrustful questions about the quality and content of my undergraduate education. It became clear to me that likely the main reason I was accepted to a competitive graduate program at all, was because one of my letters of recommendation was from one of the last, very senior, nonmember professors who was held in very high regard in our field internationally. Frankly, I think his nonmember status was critical for being trusted by external colleagues to assess me accurately and according to field-wide professional standards, and for that reason alone, he was able (barely) to build a bridge for me. He’s gone now, and the next wave of grads will not have his help. Increasingly, the broader university system sees BYU as insular and discriminatory. Trust is a two way street: if we announce so loudly that we consider the trainees of other institutions un-hireable and insufficiently morally pure, it means that our mentoring network is completely severed from the rest of the country, and that the situation is getting worse with time. Historically, even though nonmember faculty were limited, there were enough network connections that grad admissions committee members and hiring officers have still thought “Oh yes, I know one person at BYU whom I went to grad school with, or who studied with another group I regard. This gives me the sense that BYU’s program is probably decent–I think that if it were terrible, there’re enough open lines of communication that I’d know. If my nonmember BYU contact recommends this BYU grad, then I believe the individual would work well with the women, LGBT+, and racial minorities on our team, even though BYU’s demographics are bad.” As the last wave of competitively hired faculty retires, those last few network connections are about to expire. The hiring power of a BYU degree, and the university’s accreditation, are at risk. Listen up: I know so many millennial BYU grads who leave our degree completely off our resume, or seriously consider it. I’d like you to think hard about how critical a bachelor degree is for professional opportunities, and then think about what it means that we find it more advantageous to leave it off. I’m talking about people working in quite disparate fields–STEM research, history, law, business, etc.

    As I said to start, I know that BYU really wants to hire me, since as a woman STEM researcher, winning national early career awards, I am, in a BYU professor’s own words, “rarer than hen’s teeth.” Here’s what I think about that prospect, and I suspect many of these concerns would be shared by other underrepresented groups: I can tell that I would have a dramatically harder time recruiting competitive grad students and postdoctoral researchers at BYU. I am concerned that being affiliated with BYU would hurt my opportunities for inter-institutional collaborations, speaking opportunities, professional awards and appointments, and grants. Even with the best of intentions, I question whether my colleagues at BYU would have the practical experience and skill to treat me professionally in a non-gendered way. So far, their recruitment attempts are extremely gendered, nonstandard, and uncomfortable. BYU faculty have reminded me many times that they want to hire women, but don’t actually talk with me about my research. I know that women (and, I suspect, racial minorities) are evaluated more poorly and frequently disrespected by male BYU students, more severely than at other institutions. I see that very few of the BYU faculty in my field are nationally competitive anymore–one professor of >20 years does not even actually have a PhD, some were hired without doing any postdoctoral research, some were hired without ever training outside UT, or even outside BYU, at any point in their career. I’m telling you that *the white men* are not competitively hired, have not been for quite some time now, they are poorly equipped to mentor trainees in navigating national and international networks and opportunities, and the program is suffering.

    BYU can substantively address ALL their diversity, networking, and accreditation struggles by simply competitively hiring non-member faculty. I’d like to see them do it. It’ll be better, easier, and more effective if they do it while there are still some current nonmember senior faculty left. Time is running out.

  39. CES is a cesspit of gender discrimination. It is only recently that they no longer have an actual policy of discriminating against women but the culture is engrained. BYU Provo is probably less affected than any other CES institution and still has abysmal numbers of women faculty.

  40. Anon 29 says:

    One other point I missed: because BYU only hires church members, and because hiring and continuing job status depend on having your orthodoxy stamped by 2 arbitrary, lay clergy who are male and probably white–there is no academic freedom or job security at BYU. Academic freedom and job security/tenure, are baseline expectations everywhere else, including other privately owned religious institutions. Could I, as faculty at BYU, write or lecture on the psychology, biology, or history of homosexuality, gender, race, or evolution, including when those findings run contrary to church/BYU policy? Could I connect the dots and say explicitly that my research does not support policy? Could I train my mentees to national professional standards, including when that means telling them that discriminating on the basis of sex, race, religion, or sexual orientation is wrong? Could I exercise my own freedom of worship to pray to Heavenly Mother? Could I exercise my own freedom of conscience to agitate politically for progressive causes? It looks to me like speaking authentically could cost my career and health insurance at any moment at BYU. This is another angle on why national professional networks don’t necessarily trust BYU faculty to speak truthfully.

  41. Anon 29, I agree that the foundation of the university if continued hiring practices persist is in jeopardy. There is a sense among non-academic LDS people that BYU is “highly regarded” out in the world and I’ve heard my friends on the east coast say this as a rationale for them to send their kids to BYU rather than their extremely well regarded state flagships. While there are a few disciplines this is true, and in some cases any degree will do, in academia it is definitely not considered a peer institution. When you officially and publicly limit your hiring pool to church members of certain orthodoxy the field knows. And the field suspects that the candidates that meet that criteria may not be the best of the best.

  42. John Mansfield says:

    It seems likely that those who run the By Common Consent website made significant efforts repeatedly in past years to recruit racial minorities to be among its recurring blog writers, but those efforts did not bring any such writers into your group. You were successful in recruiting women, but you never discovered how to find blacks or Hispanics or Asians who wouldn’t turn down your invitation. This failure probably left you with a lot of personal experience that would have some relevance to understanding the racial and ethnic dimensions of BYU faculty demographics.

  43. Thanks, Anon 29.

    John, I’m afraid I don’t follow your point. Is it that as a blog we’re insufficiently diverse? That’s absolutely right. But you seem to be pushing it a step further: our lack of diversity somehow excuses—or should at least force us to excuse—BYU’s lack of diversity.

    That’s a terrible take. Yes, we should (and would like to) be more diverse. But we lack the formal recruiting policies, the recruiting resources, and frankly, the importance of BYU. We’re not responsible for teaching or mentoring students, we don’t affect their future, and pay for bloggers here isn’t going to support a family (honestly, what I make at BCC plus a quarter would buy me a quarter’s worth of something).

    So yes, we should be more diverse. But our lack of diversity is unrelated to BYU’s, and doesn’t affect our ability—and even duty—to push BYU to do better.

  44. I have been on faculty at BYU for nearly two decades, so like a couple of others who have left comments, I have direct experience with this topic.

    In our department, we have tried to hire non-members, both for visiting positions and for CFS-track positions. We have never received clearance. Like others, we have also had LDS members rejected for a variety of reasons including lack of a current temple recommend and, in one case, the social media posts of the candidate’s spouse (yes, I know, unbelievable). The standard job advertisement includes the phrase, “LDS preferred;” the reality is, no candidate who lacks a recommend has even made it past preliminary vetting in the entire time I have been at BYU. The last non-LDS faculty member we had retired about twelve years ago.

    The change in faculty “standards” occurred in the wake of the early 1990s upheaval (in the English department and elsewhere, including the so-called “September Six”). Prior to that, our non-LDS faculty member could drink wine or coffee at home as long as he maintained the Honor Code standards on campus; after that, when the new expectations (eligible for temple privileges) were instituted, he could not even do that (well, at least officially). Some may recall a situation a couple of years ago where an ROTC officer had to be reassigned from the BYU detail because he refused to agree to live the Honor Code even off campus (he was happy to do so while on campus, however). As an aside, all this does is make faculty disinclined to be open and honest with their ecclesiastical leaders since their employment would be at stake.

    In terms of candidate pools, the reality of the temple-worthy requirement severely limits the potential hires. I think the most we have had in a single search who were “qualified” was eleven; usually in my field, a search will see between 150 and 300+ applicants depending on the specifics of the position. We have been extremely fortunate to have had excellent candidates and hires during that period, including eleven women and three POC out of a total of 37 hires during this period. But there is a desire to do more….it simply is not possible given our pool and its restrictions.

    What can be done? Well, realistically, nothing in the short term. Even if TPTB decided tomorrow to change the hiring parameters regarding non-LDS candidates and the temple recommend requirement, it would take several years for those seeking jobs to realize that BYU was, in fact, a viable option and worth the time and effort of putting together an application. In addition, the pipeline of candidates is getting better in terms of POC, but that will take additional time to develop–the absolute dearth of academic jobs overall has depressed graduate school applications overall. But any suggestion that diversity is not valued at BYU is false–I know for a fact that my department and others are working on the issue.

    As far as BYU’s reputation, that can be an obstacle–especially in this political climate. But at least in my field, our department and many of its members are recognized experts in their fields and BYU’s reputation is stellar among their colleagues across the country and internationally. That may differ in other fields (as mentioned above), and I know that I have had to work hard to overcome some preconceptions and have faced some professional obstacles due to my institutional affiliation. But making a blanket statement about BYU’s failures in terms of reputation is definitely inaccurate.

    This ended up being longer than I intended, but the bottom line is this: diversity is a concern and it is being addressed in some places on campus, but there are serious structural obstacles to making changes to the degree that some would prefer.

  45. Thanks for the inside information, DJ. It’s clear that for BYU to truly diversify its faculty, it’s going to take administrative change; the faculty lacks the ability to do it on their own as long as non-faculty can veto the faculty’s hiring preferences for any or no reason at all.

  46. Geoff - Aus says:

    Support for rogerdhansen above. Why does the church subsidise students at BYU? All BYUs are in USA. I have 5 grandchildren in universities in Australia. Does whatever reason the church subsidises US young people apply to my grandchildren, and more so third world members? Not sure if my tithing gets to America, there may be a pool of money invested in Australia.

    BYU qualifications would very likely not be recognized in Australia. I went to Ricks in early 1970, got a junior college degree. Had to leave America for visa reasons. The junior college degree was considdered by Sydney Uni, as equivalent to high school graduation. Start again.

    I realise this is not about inequality at BYU, but inequality none the less.

  47. “Listen up: I know so many millennial BYU grads who leave our degree completely off our resume, or seriously consider it. I’d like you to think hard about how critical a bachelor degree is for professional opportunities, and then think about what it means that we find it more advantageous to leave it off. I’m talking about people working in quite disparate fields–STEM research, history, law, business, etc.”

    Millennial, female, Ph.D. in a non-STEM field.

    Can confirm. So glad I have the option of telling people when they ask where I went to school, the name of the good state school where I got my doctorate. Spouse also a BYU grad. We will tell our kids to think long and hard before going to the Y. It’s become too big a liability in too many fields.

    And that’s a terrible shame.

  48. C. Keen says:

    Sam, I appreciate what you want for your daughters, but there are a lot of schools that can provide that. There are very few schools where my kids can see church members in every academic field imaginable. Solving BYU’s diversity problem by hiring nonmember faculty makes the overall U.S. higher education landscape less diverse (in types of institutions represented), and that would be an unfortunate loss. You can do some interesting things with faculty that are committed to the institution’s distinctive mission that you can’t do with faculty that just managed to land a job there.

  49. C. Keen, I don’t think it’s right either that a BYU that hired non-Mormons wouldn’t provide role models for your children or that non-Mormon faculty wouldn’t be committed to the institution’s distinct mission. And I say this coming as faculty at a Jesuit institution. Probably ~half of our faculty is Catholic. But as a faculty, we (me included) take our Jesuit mission and identity very seriously. And we use that mission and identity in our recruiting, both of students and of faculty. None of us are here just because we managed to land a job here. We either came for the mission or it was inculcated in us when we got here.

    Likewise, even if BYU were to open up its hiring, there’s not a chance that the majority of faculty would suddenly stop being Mormon. Your children—and their classmates—would continue to be exposed to church members in every academic field imaginable. But they might also be exposed to (more) faculty of color and women faculty, which would improve their experience and their educational quality.

    In short, given my experience at Loyola, I’m not tremendously sympathetic to the idea that only Mormons can provide a distinctively LDS education.

  50. Grateful reader says:

    Purely opinion, not backed by data…

    Maybe the faculty is not more “diverse” because people who fit into “being diverse” don’t want to come to BYU. I mean, if I was not LDS (and not capable of laughing at our church for its occasional inane ridiculousness) I wouldn’t seek out a college named after a polygamist who said racist things.

    Why do you blame the white hiring landscape on racism is hiring? My experience is BYU actively seeks out people of color to be progressive/ publish great photos that make us look like we “love our black brothers and sisters.” That’s more racist to me. Seeking out the token black woman to make yourself look woke.

    My observation is many white church officials love looking woke, while never apologizing for the systemic racism of their ancestors who taught that being black disqualified you from being a fully ordained person.

    It’s great that you think BYU should be less white. But ask yourself why you really care.

  51. Sam, thanks for another thoughtful post. To briefly address the BYU faculty members who have commented, and particularly Anon 29 and Leona, this problem is not only seen by BYU faculty, alumni and other professionals, prospective students are watching BYU very closely as well.

    I have a daughter who will graduate from high school this next year. Her GPA, ACT, AP’s, and EC’s make her a competitive candidate at top 40 schools. She is STEM focused. As a middle school student, her dream was to attend BYU. As she advanced through high school, many things called this goal into question: The honor code debacle of 2016. The problem with racism that manifest itself on campus this past year. The botched roll out of honor code changes that gave hope to and then crushed the LGBTQ community. Largely her expressed disappointment with the school centers on what she sees as a lack of strong and decisive leadership coming from top levels of the administration. Recently, official school statements against racism and the formation of a committee to explore action encouraged her, but it is too little too late. In a recent conversation in which she asked me hard questions about gender, POC and member/non-member diversity at BYU among its faculty and how it has changed (for the worse) since I was a student there, she was left her deeply troubled. She informed me for all of these reasons she has decided against applying to BYU, and also fears the degree would serve more as a liability to her long term academic and professional goals than an advantage.

    I hope the board of education and administrators can understand they may start losing top students to other universities because of these issues. I am thrilled she is excited to venture out of the state of Utah and believe she will be better served for doing so—her reasons are valid, but it also leaves me with a sense of sadness. I hope the school commits to enacting real change.

  52. DJ: It’s great to hear that your department is doing relatively better than my college in recruiting competitive and diverse faculty. Those efforts definitely make a difference for current students and the reputation of the university. I’ll say that sincerely and up front, because I also need to disagree that faculty are unable to do more. There are very well established methods for dealing with unresponsive, exploitive, or corrupt management, namely labor organizing.

    Imagine that your department proceeds with a broad search and recommends the best qualified individual, who meets the formally stated job requirements, who is a nonmember or a member without a recommend. Admin unjustly blackballs the candidate. And then, your department goes on strike. You’d explain your demands, that you are striking for appropriate shared governance, academic freedom, and the institutional support that you need to deliver the highest educational and research experiences to students and shareholders. You lay out clearly how this issue affects education and research standards, grad hireability, accreditation, grant funding including broader impacts, the links between representation and student well-being, etc. etc. You are concerned that via the temple recommend interview, the university is discriminating against privately held beliefs, which is in conflict with religious freedom. You are concerned that fearing job loss over spousal social media comments or ward leadership roulette is harming the mental health of faculty, especially minority faculty. You are concerned that the same environment seriously harms your minority students. You express your concern that professional societies are refusing to list BYU job postings over discrimination. You are unable to do your jobs under these conditions. Maybe you reach out directly to donors with your concerns. Maybe you publish the critiques raised in your last external departmental review. You come with receipts. It obviously makes the news. It opens a conversation, much like the Honor Code direct actions did, and many people with related concerns and observations speak up, like Leona and myself. It gets discussed how the September 6 were fired for holding views that are now common inside the church. It gets discussed in the daylight how the award-winning Daniel Fairbanks was removed as Dean and ultimately left the university over his medical inability to shave (wouldn’t grant exceptions for the public-facing position of Dean. But maybe also retaliatory against his research?) There would be a lot of people chiming in on the subject in your support, and there would be many LDS parents who were previously unaware of some of these issues who would have new concerns and would voice them. Admin has the picture painted for them that alumni, faculty, students, parents, donors, are not well pleased with hiring practices. You really think you would lose? Come one, did a handful of students protesting the Honor Code office lose? Did investigative journalism into policing at BYU lose? You won’t lose. What are they going to do, fire the whole department, and anyone campus wide who supports? Nah. Maybe for the first post-strike job search, you make clear that it will be a diversity cluster hire. After all the free press related to the strike, a much broader applicant pool is paying attention immediately, and they trust your departmental culture and values to a degree not otherwise imaginable. Any clear marker of change, even one smaller than a strike, probably would be enough to bring a broader applicant pool on board, because academic jobs are so sparse. Because it’s a cluster hire, applicants know going in that they would not end up the only minority in the whole college. They believe that future needs will be also be acted on.

    If >50% of faculty campus-wide went on strike, followed up with strategic cluster hiring and equity and inclusion efforts, you could have the issue dramatically improved campus-wide in less than 5 years, and well on track for balanced demographics in 15-20 years. You could rapidly and lastingly rescue the meaning of a BYU diploma. You could get smaller but still ground-breaking progress with just one department strategically resisting, or even by simply circulating petitions and open letters on the issue. Again, your current strategies fall short because you are not taking on the administration, even though you know they are being unjust and are hurting the university’s long term interests. It’s not even clear to me if their blackbox hiring discrimination is legal. If striking feels terrifyingly risky to you, remember that you are expecting new hires to take on that same risk–of being fired if they say or do something admin arbitrarily don’t like–except that you are expecting them to take it on all alone, with the extra vulnerability of being underrepresented minorities. They have dependents too. They have no guarantees of a career safety net outside BYU either. Striking is less dangerous than what you expect them to do. If you would like to stop being criticized for lack of diversity and/or concerns about academic quality, you must undertake some efforts that target the administration, not just the elusive potential hires.

  53. The analysis is so full of logical holes it almost feels willfully blind, maybe it is, idk.

    1) Why use the general American population as a comparison in the first place as opposed to the actual available pool of candidates?

    2) What is the justification for assuming systemic racism for any differences between the arbitrary population you chose and the people who want and meet the standards to get hired in the first place? Yes, it is conceivable that whatever it is you are calling systemic racism, some level of unjust treatment between groups, could play a part, but you provide no evidence for it, and assuming it is responsible for *all* the difference is weak unidimensional-thinking that’s lazy at best.

    3) Why is diversity being measured on the arbitrary factors of race and sex alone when there are thousands of ways in which people are diverse from one another?

    4) What makes you assume that having a faculty that has a proportional sex and race representation to the general American population is preferable or better? As opposed to who is most qualified and best fit for the various positions themselves, and want those positions in the first place? (For example more women than men in the church choose family over career, are you suggesting they should change their desires to fit your preconceived notions of how the world should work?)

    The thinking is so surface-level and weak it’s honestly embarrassing. It seems you have chosen dogma over critical-thinking, and this is the kind of material that makes me frequent BCC less and less over time. Maybe that is too harsh, maybe this is the best you can offer, but I believe you are more capable than this, and I think this site can do better as well.

  54. Really Anonymous says:

    Now that you have unpacked BYU’s numbers of women and minority faculty, next you should tackle BYU-Idaho. But buckle up, friend, because it would just cause your head to explode, and BYU would seem *almost* progressive by comparison.

    Whatever problems about the Church’s hiring practices that have been described by the commenters above, are perhaps even worse than you think on the ground. Even after a candidate has been vetted thoroughly on a department level and then on a college level, a university president can arbitrarily block a hire, no reasons given. This action has been committed in unrestrained fashion by the last two presidents. Being of primarily right-wing ideological bents and GA ambitions, I can tell you that CES administrators not only are NOT sensitive to issues of racial and gender diversity in hiring, but they also consciously work against diversity for diversity’s sake. They buy into arguments that America’s “PC culture” has created reverse discrimination practices across institutions, and by gosh, they’re not going to let those “worldly influences” creep into the Church’s prized orthodox institutions. I don’t know how much this overreaction has played into the possible hires of people of color (for similar reasons about limited applicant pools described above), but I know for a fact that perfectly qualified female candidates have been torpedoed on the highest level at BYU-Idaho numerous times, even after a departments unanimously and enthusiastically supported and endorsed a candidate all the way up the chain. And for no reason whatsoever except that the administrator claimed that he felt the person would not be a “good fit.” (Translation: too feminist, too many publications [yes!], too nonconformist, too divorced, etc) And ZERO of these ad hoc decisions have ever been appealed successfully by the faculty and departments who care enough to really fight against them (and some have tried.) Now, in this climate of draconian and authoritarian hiring policies, picture the absolute powerlessness of faculty to improve diversity.

    To those who have suggested that faculty can stand up to this, if enough people are willing to organize, to mass protest, or to put their jobs on the line– how could the church possibly fight back against such a critical mass? Because people are TERRIFIED– of how it will affect their jobs, their membership in the Church, their church callings, their standing in a predominantly LDS community, the social ostracization that would happen to their children.

    Imagine spending 10 years in a teaching job where you haven’t had the time to publish, but you’ve also been discouraged and even shamed for doing any academic research? How does a person risk going back out on the job market with an empty CV? And especially when they’re always being reminded that there are “20 people lined up to apply for every faculty position.”

    Believe me, plenty of faculty would love to diversify hiring. But until the highest Church leadership and its lackey CES administrators actually do anything about it, it will not happen. Because when it comes to hiring, orthodoxy is the primary concern to administrators and Salt Lake, while diversity might be secondary, tertiary or even quaternary. But in the meantime, they will continue to insist upon the various BYUs’ “divine, unique missions” (in their minds), even while the CES reputation sinks deeper and deeper into a specific institutional brand of sexism, racism, and homophobia. And even if BYU (Provo) might want to tackle these problems, its ongoing shared reputation and name with the other BYU will only make things worse. Because, as it is anecdotally well known and repeated in faculty circles, “BYU-Idaho is what the brethren *wish* BYU was.” Perhaps only BYU-Hawaii should become a type of model of at least half-assed efforts toward faculty diversity in the Church. Let’s talk about that.

  55. Hey Sam, looks like there are other sources with differeing numbers on faculty. Still not great, but better.


  56. Thanks, Matt. I’m not sure where that site gets its numbers, but it looks to have counted a few more Hispanic/Latinx than I did (which frankly is where I probably had the most errors). There’s also a fairly big chunk of “ethnicity unknown,” which, I suspect, is largely white. Truly, I hope that I undercounted the racial diversity at BYU, but even undercounting it, BYU’s not great.

    And Really Anonymous, thanks for your comment. I thought about looking at BYU-Idaho. Two things stopped me. First, it took so. Much. Time. to look through the thousand-plus faculty I looked at, and I don’t have time (right now) to do it again. And second, I don’t have the same connection to BYU-Idaho. As a BYU alum, I’m criticizing my alma mater in hopes of encouraging it to improve (because it needs to improve!).

  57. Yeah I don’t those that actually run BYU are actually concerned too much about this, they’re not actually concerned with BYU’s academic status in general. I have a family member who has been faculty at BYU for over 30 years now and he’s convinced that BYU is de-academizing itself. It doesn’t really care that much about having qualified faculty, producing/funding important research, or producing student graduates with expertise in their fields.

    They’re more concerned with BYU’s ‘unique mission’, I don’t they care so much about their academic reputation outside the membership of the Church. The objective is to get already LDS student butts in seats and cultivate future LDS leaders that *appear* to have impressive academic credentials from BYU. BYU has reportedly been cutting back graduate programs and is focused more now on ‘undergraduate research’ which honestly seems more like a focused resume padding experience for undergrads, I don’t think any actually important research has yet come out of these undergraduate research projects.

    I did my bachelors and masters at BYU and now I’m doing my PhD somewhere else, the contrast is pretty stark when I compare what appears to be the objectives of the two universities for its students and faculty.

    It’s all about creating a safe space for mormon kids for them to ‘safely’ become adults because it reduces the exposure of outside influences that they think cause so many members to leave the church when they become independent adults in their 20s. It’s basically an expensive daycare or babysitting job. Get students in there, get them locked in and married so that when they graduate they’ll be hopefully further inoculated against leaving the church later in life.

  58. Wondering says:

    “BYU defines itself as an intellectual community of faithful Latter-day Saints, and those sympathetic to their convictions, who pursue knowledge from the baseline of religious belief….
    Faculty members, for their part, agree to be loyal university citizens according to the guidelines set forth in the BYU Handbook. It is expected that the faculty will strive to contribute to the unique mission of BYU….
    BYU intends to nourish a community of believing scholars, where students and teachers, guided by the gospel, freely join together to seek truth in charity and virtue.”
    It would seem that publicly available policy statements, presumably approved by the Board of Trustees, are at least partly in agreement with JImbob, that “they [don’t] care so much about … academic reputation outside the membership of the Church.” And I would expect any efforts to diversify the faculty to take a backseat to the goals of the leaders of the founding and funding Church. The Board of Trustees is comprised primarily of senior general authorities including all of the First Presidency.
    BYU has been primarily an undergraduate university for decades, with a few graduate programs of academic note in selected areas and some graduate programs of no particular note or academic respectability, some of the latter aimed, it has seemed, largely at creating higher degrees for seminary, institute, and BYU religion teachers.
    What I’m reading here tells me that even BYU’s undergraduate reputation among others has gone downhill from what it once was, though it has not been shown that the reasons for that are the quality of undergraduate instruction or student body. I have not followed BYU and its colleges closely. Maybe I have misapprehended what has happened there since 1980, those I suspect the academic freedom kerfuffle of the 90s may have been a motivating factor in the current articulation of the policy partly quoted above.

  59. My experience at BYU was definitely not diverse. I did have a couple of professors who were not LDS. I do not recall any that were not white.

    On the good news front, the incoming president of BYU-H is apparently Native Hawaiian. He’s also got a doctorate in evolution/ecology.

    As far as BYU’s reputation, it definitely hurt me when applying for and interviewing for biology PhD programs; however, it was a plus when I changed track and applied for law school.

  60. Michinita says:

    I see my past self in the commenters saying we should be concerned with hiring the best candidate and not worry about diversity. And I’m ashamed at the blind spot that allowed me to believe that hiring the most qualified candidate would result in an the overwhelmingly white, male faculty BYU has built.

    Either we believe that white males are more qualified and admit our racist and sexist *beliefs*, or we see that the system is stacked against women and people of color and admit our racist and sexist *policies*. Either way we need to recognize that the beliefs or policies contradict the words of the prophet and start the process of repentance.

  61. Sam, you posit the joint statement with the NAACP as a call to action and then discuss what it will take. That statement has been rightly criticized for its emphasis on overt racism (“prejudice, hate, and discrimination”) without mention of institutional or systemic racism (embedded practices and policies that have racist effect). I believe this is not an accident or an oversight. I believe this reflects the general or mainstream or typical view of Church members in the United States and the general views of Church leaders including the Trustees of the Church schools.

    Because you are ultimately talking about the problem of institutional or systemic racism, I believe there is not a will or interest in taking your suggestions. In other words, the call to action is not one.

    There is an interesting-to-me and troubling-to-individuals-I-know tension in that the faculty and administrators at BYU-P whom I know or know about do appear to be fully cognizant and conversant in the issues of systemic racism and do want change. That means as a group they are not representative of the average Church member or average Church leader I characterize above. If given a chance, I would stand with the faculty and administrators I know. But I think it is a poorly supported and embattled position in the Church today.

  62. Sam, I find your statement “I have absolutely no doubt that BYU will provide them with excellent religious role models. But I want them to see people who look like them, who have the same issues as them. (And I say this as the white father of white daughters: students of color at BYU have exponentially fewer role models who look like them and have similar experiences.)” as systemic racist and tone deaf on the matter. Even the last comment, worded as such, are overtly racist, likely unknowingly, because it implies students of color don’t have role models or similar experiences as their white students.

    I also find it truly amazing that any would not realize that systemic racism exists where diversity is absent due to deliberate acts that suppress or foster disenfranchised engagement of persons of color.

    Furthermore, I would challenge a more broader definition of what diversity is or the lack there of, beyond the obvious predominance of white males found there at BYU. If there were a more definitive approach at recruiting qualified candidates to be considered based not merely on their demographic but on their humanity in embracing diversity, would you not be able to afford a more richer experience for any given student body.

    In response to your statement Sam; here’s mine: I’m a woman of color, the first black female engineer of a fortune 500 company by qualification and a mom of 2 educated black daughters; one formerly of the Citadel, MBA and a PhD candidate. The other a graduate of Dartmouth. I have long encouraged both of my daughters to not seek for sameness in any but to strive to push themselves beyond the edge of wherever they strive to be; where any would seek to challenge or stop them from reaching their fullest capacity. I am also a grandmother of a granddaughter who is bi-racial and is challenged with which box to check, as you’d likely mistake her ethnicity on visual observation alone. But I don’t encourage my granddaughter to only see people who look like her because that is limiting and systemically racist even for a bi-racial person.

    Therein is the dilemma. When you have any who take comfort in a profoundly, homogeneously and purposefully positioned mindset that seeks to “see people who look like them, who have the same issues as them. (And I say this as the white father of white daughters: students of color at BYU have exponentially fewer role models who look like them and have similar experiences.)” then you are systemically perpetuating racism, rather you realize it or not.

  63. BUBBA, I’m going to push back a little, in part because you misread me and in part because I don’t think we’re entirely disagreeing.

    Should we learn from people not like us? Absolutely. But is it helpful for someone to learn from someone who has a similar background? Absolutely. What is it like to be a woman geographer? I have no idea. And neither does any fulltime faculty of the BYU geography department. Similarly, what’s it like to be a person of color and an accountant? I also don’t have experience with that. And neither does anybody in BYU’s accountancy program.

    If my daughters go to BYU, they’ll have plenty of opportunity to take classes from men. And if we increase the faculty’s diversity, they’ll still have plenty of opportunity to take classes from men. And those men will be able to teach my daughters important things! But if they don’t have a chance to take classes from women or from people of color, their learning experience will be impoverished.

    And I gather from your comment that you’d agree with that. So your concern—that students take classes from people not like themselves—was an underlying assumption to what I’ve written. White male students are (mostly) the only people at BYU who could possible solely take classes from people who look like them.

  64. The broader point here is that, There is systemic racism in the process of hiring at BYU, however achieved. There is also a culture that feeds into that mindset by the very nature of assumptions to which is imposed by that process that comforts the parents of students seeking to go there in need of seeing those that look like them and have the same experiences as them.

    That same culture then moves to the overall hiring process, the process of applying for a mortgage, the process of promotions, the process of humanity as a whole.

    Those who seek to see those that look like them at BYU, seek to see those that look like them in every facet of life, is the point I’m making.

    What is learned by marginalization or disenfranchisement that allows even an intelligent learned one to ignore the value of seeking others to learn from, a more broaden perspective of experiences in every day life, apparently not much, when even the tone or choice of words are demonstratively subtle and conveying in nature to oppose diversity in seeking sameness.

    Protest not, but mindful of the cause.
    Rioter, never.
    Consciously aware and engaged, to challenge any that question the authentic beauty and value of an engaged diverse humanity of educators of any the same of other looking than them; yes.

  65. I’ve been thinking since a while to study general authorities in such a manner : how many general authorities from outside Utah ? From outside the U.S. ? how many who are not business executives ? How many are not related to another general authority ? But I’m afraid of the numbers I would get…

  66. What are you seeking, diversity or someone that looks like you and that has the same experience as you?

    It’s not a trick question. It’s not complicated.

    Elements within a process of selection and thoughts of sameness towards outcomes that emulate perpetual sameness, impose a trend towards racism, which is learned by immersion of those all seeking the same.

    Know that and grow from it.

  67. Cynthia says:

    I don’t want to hijack what has been a thought provoking post and comments, but I would hope to see another post on BYU post-graduation stats for employment and non-BYU grad schools. Everyone I know or remember seems to have done well with a BYU degree. Am I living in a bubble?

  68. Done well in what regard? Done well for themselves as a measure, Post BYU success or in regard to the growth and exploration of their humanity and the eradication of racism?
    Yes, you are living in a bubble.

  69. @Josh H “Unlike most universities, which try to challenge its students with new ideas and perspectives, BYU is in the business of reinforcing previously held beliefs of its students.” – I would strongly disagree with this, based on my own experience at BYU ten years ago. Most if not all of my professors challenged my previously held beliefs and assumptions. Even about church history, etc. and simplistic scriptural interpretations. Most were politically liberal, at least relative to Utah County if not in general. Even those this blog would classify as conservative challenged beliefs and assumptions in meaningful ways.

  70. Cam: I’m glad you had that experience. I did not although admittedly I attended in the late 80s (ancient history for you). I still maintain that LDS parents send their kids to BYU with the expectation that they’ll graduate with the same conservative ideology that they entered with…and certainly that as young adults they will cling to the Church as closely as they did as kids growing up.

  71. One commenter mentioned that potential hires at BYU have been rejected because of not living up to temple recommend standards, including the Word of Wisdom. What I find both humorous and sad is that Joseph Smith would not qualify on several points to teach at BYU (assuming, of course, that he had the academic credentials). For starters, he was drinking wine in the Carthage Jail. And then there are all those untrue statements he made about plural marriage. Hmm.

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