The Most Unkindest Cut of All


Niccolò Machiavelli


When I was dismissed as editor of the Mormon Studies Review (until recently, the FARMS Review), published by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Studies and, soon thereafter, resigned as the Institute’s Director of Advancement (on which, see this), I fully anticipated that I would continue as a member of the Institute’s academic faculty, particularly because I’m the editor in chief of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI); since I brought it under the aegis of the organization many years ago, METI has functioned under the umbrella of the Institute.  I expressly pointed out that I intended to continue in that position, as editor in chief.


Thus, to me, perhaps the lowest, least justifiable, and most insulting blow of the whole episode came when I was informed that I must vacate my office at the Institute.  (Because of my professorial appointment in the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages, I have a principal office up on campus in the Joseph F. Smith Building.)  My wife and I — overwhelmingly my wife — had finally gotten the new Maxwell Institute office into useable shape by the end of April.  I knew that I would be gone, off and on, much of the summer (four weeks of that absence, including the recent tour of Turkey that just concluded late Saturday night, came in connection with one of my assignments at the Maxwell Institute), but I had planned my fall teaching schedule so as to maximize the uninterrupted time I could spend in my new Institute office.  The intent was to get myself back into full involvement with METI, and into close physical proximity to its daily editing and production.  I’ve been looking forward to this with great pleasure and enthusiasm.


Even after the axe fell (by email, during a trip to Israel that I had undertaken because of my assignment with the Maxwell Institute), I imagined myself settling, sadly but quietly, into my secondary METI office, off the hill to the south of campus.


But now I’ve been ordered to get out of that office ASAP.  My office, it seems, is urgently needed for somebody else, even though it was given to me not all that long ago, and even though there was never the slightest mention of any shortage of office space prior to the mid-June putsch, when I evidently became persona non grata there.  (The Maxwell Institute building has actually long had at least one or two offices that were being used only partly, or not at all.)


Thus, my wife has just headed off this morning to begin boxing up the books that she had put up only a few weeks ago on the shelves in my new office.  (I have no idea where they’re all going to go.)


One of the purposes of a blog, I suppose, is self-therapy.  Not just opining, but airing gripes.  Bellyaching.  Whining.  (So, if you don’t want to read my howls and lamentations, stop now.  No.  Wait a minute.  Sorry.  Too late.)


And it’s true:  I feel a bit better now.  But only just a tiny little bit.


There is no good reason for this to be happening.



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  •, James Pratt

    This is why I left “employment” for “self employent” 30 years ago. Although my choice has been financially difficult, no one has lorded over me, no unkind and ill-logical posturing nor lay-offs, nor firings have occured since. I walked out doors that closed upon me to a life free from managerial malfesience, unkindness and self-interests of others with a simple prayerful directive — “I surrender. What should I do with my talents, Father?”

    Walk out and breathe freedom’s clean air, and enjoy the vistas unecumbered by the pretenses which control academia and much of corporate America. Enjoy the path which ends at the next step you will take, with determination and deference to God — our guide.

  • Dermfellow

    Even in the best of times, with the benefits and blessings of the gospel in our midst, we still can’t evict the serpent from the garden. I hate politics. Apalling.

  • Janice Johnson

    This makes me so incredibly sad.

  • Bill Hamblin

    Do you really want an office where you have to see Jerry Bradford every day? Really?!

    • Elizabeth Scott

      I had to LOL at Bill’s comment, Dan! I don’t know Bradford personally..just going by how he treated you via email.
      I am sorry you are going through this, Dan. Your students may be happy, though. Won’t you be spending more time in your office that is closer to them?
      GRR! I HATE university politics!

      • danpeterson

        Sigh. I had been blissfully untouched by university politics until this recent episode (which, in my biased judgment, more than compensates for all those years of bliss.) My home department is remarkably serene and harmonious, at least from where I’ve sat, and we all get along very well. The Maxwell Institute, too, has been such a place (and I still have friends there, though many of my old Institute friends are now alienated from it). So this stuff hit me quite out of the blue, and has been enormously demoralizing. I’m really struggling, candidly, with my enthusiasm for BYU — a place that I have loved, genuinely loved, since a few years before my student days. This is an unaccustomed emotional state that I’ve really hated being in, and I hope I can climb out of it. As it is, I’ve thought seriously of leaving. I probably won’t. But the very fact that I’ve thought about leaving — when, up until now, I’ve always felt that they would ultimately have to drag me out of my office over my senile protests — is, from my perspective, profoundly shocking. I can’t pretend that this hasn’t all been terribly disheartening.

    • Darren


    • Chuck Boyd – New Jersey

      Cousin Hamblin – - touche !! What a sad state of affairs that such a thing could -be said about FARMS now Maxwell Inst – – I bet Elder Maxell and Bro Nibley are weeping on the other side – that “maangement” has overtaken and kicker out “leadership” at the Maxwell Institute – next thing you know Bro Bradford will announcs the cancellation of John Sorenson’s coming book on the Book of Mormon – I’m waiting and hoping I’m wrong

  • John Doe

    Boy, that was an intelligent remark.

  • Mayan

    I thought this was going to be a blogpost about circumcision.

  • H_Nu

    And could Jerry Bradford stand to see you, someone he has woefully sinned against. It’s much easier just to kick you out of the office than to repent of how he has offended you.

  • Gary Gillum

    Dan, I’m so sorry. When I retired from BYU I told many people I would not miss three things: meetings, reports and politics. Sad that BYU has to have latter, but then we ARE only human! Blessings to you!

  • Mortal Man

    I wouldn’t worry about this too much. This is probably the Lord’s way of preparing you for greater things. When Mitt wins the election, you could be appointed as the new ambassador to Libya. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jerry Bradford has already recommended you for the job.

    • danpeterson

      LOL. Nor would I.

    • Darren

      LOL. Blackwarter Security, yo’.

  • KevinG

    As a survivor of layoffs and administrative changes that were no fault of my own, I encourage you to keep those warm feelings for the institution, mission and students of BYU. Don’t allow decisions made on a local level create hard feelings that bleed into the overall experience of your career. You will find many more blessings and blessed associations in your present and future there.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    My introduction to university politics was when I was an undergrad at the U of U. I had a minimum wage job feeding the guinea pigs thst were used as. . . guinea pigs in a lab thst had a contract with tge Army to study disease transmission vectors in US wildlife. While it had some application to potential offensive use if biological weapons, it was even more relevant to defense against bioweapons used against the US by an enemy. After all, tgey were looking at US wildlife and ibsects as disease vectors. There are continuing populations of wild animals harboring every dire disease, from bubonic plague to rabies to anthrax. It was goid to know how we could block an epidemic of one of these natural pathogens.

    However, another biology professor was jealous of all the office and lab space this operation occupied on the third floor of the biology building, including the fancy isolation areas with sliding doors where they kept the actively infected gophers and bats. So the jealous prof persuaded NBC news to do an expiose on national TV about the sinister bio warfare lab, without even talking to anyone who actually worked there. They had one ominous bit where the camera rolls out of the elevator and stops in fron of ansign that said “No entry. authorized personnel only”. The door in fact was not even locked, and the sign was put up because freshman students were wandering in all the time looking for a class or a professor. So the prof and his lab moved into leased space off campus.

    In my eight years pursuing three degrees, almost all of the faculty I knew seemed to be very nice human beings. The same has been true during twenty years of off and on adjunct faculty work. On the other hand, faculty politics seemed to reach a crescendo when I attended a clearinghouse conference for people seeking full time faculty positions in my field. Some foljs told me frankly that most faculties in my field do not care whether ypu have any ability to teach students, they are most interested in how much prestige you will bring to the college by the admiration of peers at other institutions for yoyr published articles. And many faculty also don’t like to have people on the faculty who have worked extensivly in the field they teach, because ipractical knowledge contrasts too much with their theoretical approach to issues., even if your academic credentials are the equal of theirs. (Between interviews I hung out in a faculty lounge and no one figured out I was not a professor already. ) On the other hand, they don’t seem to mind offering adjunct appointments to accomplished people, who do not compete for salary or prestige recognition with the full time faculty.

  • Wendell

    “This too shall pass”, is sometimes said of kidney stones. Hang in there, you are much loved and respected out here Professor.

  • Lynn Svedin (LBHRPBofDCP)

    Dr. Dan, your account of what is happening reminds me a lot of Hugh B. Brown’s story of “The Gardener and the Currant Bush.” Well, at least is what I hope is happening.

    Oh, and BTW, I just found this on youtube and will show it to the kids in the Sunday School class I help teach.

    • danpeterson

      I hope so, too.

  • justin

    I’m sure it will be very challenging to get by with just one office. Your cross is very heavy

    • danpeterson


      I appreciate the mocking derision.

      The fact is that a fair number of professors on campus who have assignments beyond their departments have two offices — a principal professorial office and another office, appropriately located, for an assignment with a separate but substantial campus responsibility.

      I was simply one of them.

      I continue to have the separate though very substantial campus responsibility, but now no longer have an appropriately located office.

      • justin

        My point wasn’t that you aren’t being treated unfairly but simply that there are much bigger things to worry about. Celebrate the fact you have a good career and get over the fact that you have to struggle through with only one office. I understand that it may mean accomplishing all of your tasks a little less convenient but such is life.

        • danpeterson

          There are much bigger things to worry about than whether there are bigger things for me to worry about.