Dear BYU Religious Education

Dear BYU Religious Education,

I can only speak for myself here–one LDS graduate student studying religion; but I know this sentiment is shared, and that those who share it are apprehensive about expressing it. Over the next few years, however, you, Religious Education, will hire several new professors. I believe there is one search ongoing now in Provo (using the same ad), and another in Hawaii; so this is something you should probably know sooner rather than later.

You think much higher of yourself as a place to work than I (or we) think of you. Religious Education, in my view, is not a dream job; nor is it a highly desirable job; instead, it is a job that has some benefits, but many other drawbacks that make is less than desirable.

Given, however, that the job market is so bad and that academic positions are extremely competitive, you can afford to treat me as one of many chomping at the proverbial bit to work for you. You can ask that I jump through hoops that not even Princeton asks of its potential hires–spending my summer teaching for barely enough money to get by, working as a visiting assistant professor for a year before even putting up a full-time job ad, and allowing 19 year old students to be the final arbitrators in determining whether or not my teaching is good. I do these things only because I may not have any other options; hence when you ask if I am interested in teaching for you, I feign interest; and feel a certain degree of apprehension in sharing my genuine thoughts (even now, as I share them anonymously). The notion that you can have your pick of the litter is only true for a narrow subset of graduate students. Most of us hope that we will have other prospects. In the end, though, it need not be this way.

Allow me to explain myself. In any given year there are probably 15 tenure-track jobs in my field. In ranking these jobs I take into account things such as strength of the department in the field, number of courses/credit-hours taught per year, kinds of courses taught in the curriculum, geographic location, opportunities for career development, research support, travel funding, student body, salary, etc.

The ranking goes from 1-15, with something like Princeton at #1, the University of Arkansas at #7, and Georgia Gwinnett College at #15. I would rank you, Religious Education, somewhere near 15, yet my sense is that you would rank yourself higher than 7. I think this is a large discrepancy and should be addressed.

The jobs that appear toward the middle of the pack are jobs with a moderate teaching load (usually 3 classes per semester), in a department with majors but no graduate students, in a community that values the kind of research I was trained to do in graduate school. The jobs in BYU’s other colleges fit this profile. I would be very content with any one of these jobs, as these jobs allow me to express and explore the full range of skills I’ve cultivated as a graduate student. Most of the jobs that are out there fall into this category.

You, on the other hand, offer a heavily teaching-oriented position, with not even an undergraduate program, and you provide limited opportunity for me to teach the things I’ve learned in graduate school. To be honest, sometimes I question whether or not you value my graduate training. Part of me thinks you want me for my diploma–”Yeah we have someone from [top program] on our faculty. Goes to show that you can both a faithful scholar of religion and graduate from one those programs.”

Yet, Religious Education, you are a well-funded institution, with a decent student body, in a location near family, with a unique mission dedicated to a cause dear to my heart; and this I can live with; and perhaps even learn to love.

The universities in the lower tier of my list similarly offer heavily teaching-oriented positions, but they present opportunities to teach the things I’ve learned in graduate school, and to train undergraduate majors in my discipline. On the other hand these places tend to be poorly funded institutions, with a less than stellar student body, in locations I never imagined I’d live. These negatives, however, balance out your negatives. Essentially, you, Religious Education are competitive with these jobs. Your convenient location and better funding balance out the constraints of teaching. I see you on par with the lower tier jobs available in any given year.

One big difference, though, between you, Religious Education, and these third-tier jobs is that you preclude the possibility of moving to other institutions. If I got a job at Less Than Desirable University I will at least be able to design my own classes, and gain experience relevant to other academic institutions. I could move to More Desirable University in a few years. However, the experience I gain working for you is not relevant to other institutions. If More Desirable University saw the syllabi used in your classes, they would question the legitimacy of my teaching experience. Hence, working for you means not cultivating the kinds of experiences needed to move on. The fact that accepting a position in Religious Education means remaining there my entire career is why I haven’t voiced these concerns earlier.

At the same time, though, I recognize that you, Religious Education, have goals different from other institutions; and that achieving these goals requires an alternative skill set rooted in the Gospel. I support these goals and recognize your uniqueness.

My plea, as such, is that from now on you look past my pretense to enthusiasm over the prospect of teaching for you, and see yourself the way that I see you–not as something I spent 10 years in graduate school working toward, but as something I’m willing to settle for and make the best out of when presented with few other alternatives. I think if you begin from here, rather than from the assumption that you are my More Desirable University, we might be able to come together and work to create an environment that we will both flourish in.

Sincerely,

SmallAxe

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    SmallAxe, thanks for sharing this.

  • Julie M. Smith

    As far as I can tell, your main issue is: “You think much higher [sic] of yourself as a place to work than I (or we) think of you.”

    And you are surprised by this? I’d challenge you to find a single institution in this country–particularly in the current economic situation–that doesn’t think of itself as a swell place to work. BYU has an opening after a multi-year hiring freeze–one that I suspect will get dozens of applicants–and you want them to . . . what, exactly? Include in the job listing some of the disadvantages of working there?

    Also, this post is everything I dislike about Internet anonymity. If you aren’t willing to own it, you shouldn’t be saying it in public. It seems in particularly poor taste to dish against an institution that you want to hire you.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    BYU, BYU-I, and BYU-H have been hiring faculty throughout the “hiring freeze.” The process was a bit more complicated, but nothing froze.

  • http://www.bycommonconsent.com John C.

    Julie,
    Is there anything in your past interactions with SmallAxe or his internet disposition that leads you to believe that he is just some crank? There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages to working at BYU Rel-Ed, but what SmallAxe says squares with my experience in the academic trenches at the Y.

  • Julie M. Smith

    John C., I don’t recall calling him/her a crank.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Very interesting post! I have no stake in this issue, but I read it differently than Julie. As I understand it, I don’t see this as a problem with how the ads are written per se, but a complaint about the apparent disconnect between how BYU RelEd profs see their own importance and how BYU RelEd is perceived by their potential hires. This gap produces a sort of dissonance that prevents them from establishing real connections with the grad students, who (to put it strongly) lose further respect for BYU RelEd faculty because they don’t have a realistic sense of where they fit in the academic (and even BYU) world. If I understand, there is a degree of arrogance there that turns potential hires off, making the desirable aspects of the job less desirable as a result.
    I don’t see this as a “dish” on BYU, or really expressing any interest in being hired by BYU, at least not as it is currently run (though, I’m sure that picking #15 on your list is better than nothing). Rather, I think this is a call for reform in how BYU deals with and interacts with the graduate students it is courting. This isn’t the first sense of frustration I’ve heard about how students are treated, spoken to, and sometimes feel taken advantage of in the hiring process. These processes are more or less idiosyncratic to BYU, since everyone else follows a set of industry best-practices. Whether the attitudes of self-importance happen elsewhere because of the tight job market is hard to say, but I haven’t heard similar complaints about other institutions.

  • David Clark

    I see you–not as something I spent 10 years in graduate school working toward, but as something I’m willing to settle for and make the best out of when presented with few other alternatives.

    Life’s a bitch, welcome to the labor force.

    Merry Christmas

  • Julie M. Smith

    TT, your comment strikes me as vastly different from smallaxe’s; I’ll leave it to smallaxe to say whether what you wrote or what s/he wrote is what s/he meant.

    I have no insider knowledge of BYU RelEd, but what you describe sounds as if it could be the natural outgrowth of a department divided between people who came there through CES (for whom BYU would be the place to which one would aspire with no other alternatives) and people who came through biblical or Near Eastern Studies (for whom BYU would be a school with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages).

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Julie, fair enough, but why do you see this treatment of grad students as “natural” in these circumstances?

  • http://www.keepapitchinin.org Ardis E. Parshall

    I don’t think Smallaxe’s chief issue is that this potential employer overrates itself — virtually everybody does that, employer or employee. The overrating is usually spread across the board though — an employer thinks its employees are happier than they are, and that management always listens to labor, and that they’re at the cutting edge of their field; an employee thinks that he’s better skilled than he is, that he works faster than he does, and is unfailingly cheerful.

    But in this case, the overrating centers in one point to which the employer is blind (according to this one candidate) — and it’s such a critical area that the employee can’t afford to ignore or merely hope for the best: If it’s true that having this employer on his vita cuts off all hope for advancement to More Desirable University, then he’s being required in the very first moments of his career to choose — or to settle for — all that he will ever be. Ever.

    I don’t know anybody (well, maybe someone considering selling himself and posterity into perpetual slavery) who is asked to make that decision at the outset of a career. If that’s the case, then the employer owes it to the candidate to be aware of and make clear any potential compensations, and to admit that the employee is making a concession to his employer that isn’t often demanded. But if BYU RelEd is oblivious to the Smallaxe’s evaluation, and if that evaluation is anywhere near accurate, there isn’t going to be any such discussion.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Julie, I do think you raise an interesting issue, that BYU is like the Yale of CES career teachers. It is the highest honor in those circles, and what they all aspire to. That it is more like Georgia Gwinnett among grad students, because of the high teaching load, no majors, lack of opportunity for course and career development, etc, is clearly a disconnect. How do you propose this be resolved? Do you see the possible problems it might produce?

  • Mark D.

    Of course Religious Education is a dead end, academically speaking. That is why it is called “Religious Education”. Or, how best to teach Sunday School and other classes patterned after the same model.

    If BYU was serious about attracting candidates with professional interests outside of Sunday School, they would rename the college / department something else.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    sorry, one more quick point:

    I know this isn’t the place where it will be resolved, but I really reject the idea that one’s ideas/blog posts should be awarded a special degree of virtue if one’s real name is attached to them. I’ve written on why I think the opposite is the case, if somewhat hyperbolically.
    That said, there are lots and lots of times and reasons why it is a good idea to offer criticism anonymously, precisely because the personal can be removed as a calculation, either for good or ill. We ask that students evaluate their professors anonymously, companies request anonymous feedback from their customers, and employees anonymously evaluate their employers. There are good reasons for eliminate the personal and individual in such circumstances, not least because of the imbalance of power, but also because it helps one situate the feedback more objectively if they aren’t trying to figure out ulterior motives. Smallaxe has nothing to gain nor to lose by posting this here, and I take it more seriously than I would take a named person praising BYU, because I question their motives in a way that I don’t for an anonymous critic.

  • Julie M. Smith

    “I question their motives in a way that I don’t for an anonymous critic.”

    If all anonymous critics had no ulterior motives, this would indeed be a good thing.

  • Julie M. Smith

    In case #14 was too elliptical to make sense: the problem is that anonymous critics may very well have a small axe (ha!) to grind. But we have no way of knowing. Anonymity doesn’t guarantee the absence of ulterior motives; it just guarantees that we have no way of knowing if there are any.

  • smallaxe

    I’ll respond to two points here:

    I’d challenge you to find a single institution in this country–particularly in the current economic situation–that doesn’t think of itself as a swell place to work. BYU has an opening after a multi-year hiring freeze–one that I suspect will get dozens of applicants–and you want them to . . . what, exactly? Include in the job listing some of the disadvantages of working there?

    I think others have already responded to this in the same vein that I will, so I’ll be brief. I’m not saying that RE should not see itself as a swell place to work. Instead I’m saying that it should see itself on par with other similarly swell places. I know many people teaching at colleges like Georgia Gwinnett. None that I’ve met put their institution on par with the University of Georgia, for instance, in terms of the criteria I laid out in the OP. This isn’t to say that they shouldn’t have pride in their institution. Indeed, they do some great things there.

    The problem in RE’s case is that they see themselves on par with More Desirable University, and they treat their candidates as if they were applying for a job at More Desirable U.

    Because of the surplus of PhDs, however, no job candidate dares to mention otherwise. We (or at least I) pretend to buy into their view because we are not in a position to challenge it.

    This leads to the issue of anonymity; and I think in this case the imbalance of the power relation at the very least cancels out concerns of “bad taste”.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Julie,
    It is not clear to me what the potential axe grinding you see here might be. As i read it, small axe explains that while the opportunity to participate in the unique mission of BYURE, good funding, and geography are plusses, the lack of majors, lack of use of graduate training, potential harm to one’s career, high teaching load and the way teaching is evaluated are minuses. The subjective aspect is the degree to which small axe and his/her grad augment colleagues value the latter items more than BYU thinks they do. Since all of the plusses and minuses are facts, and what is at issue is the relative value of each poimt, I’m not sure why you feel that personal biography is a decisive issue in evaluating these claims. It seems like you are looking for a reason to dismiss these professional concerns as rooted in some personal shortcoming.

    SmallAxe,
    Can you say more about what harm this expectation gap does?

  • Julie M. Smith

    “I’m not sure why you feel that personal biography is a decisive issue in evaluating these claims.”

    I don’t remember saying ‘decisive,’ but I would say relevant. When the main thrust of the post is the line “You think much higher [sic] of yourself as a place to work than I (or we) think of you,” it is not unreasonable to think that the reader would be in a better position to evaluate the claim if s/he knew more about who the “I” was–someone whose CV is such that BYU should be rolling out the red carpet and afraid that its departmental culture will cause to go elsewhere, or someone whose mediocrity means that More Desireable U is nothing but a pipe dream anyway? Someone who has had ongoing experience with a wide variety of BYU RE profs, or someone extrapolating from a hallway conversation at SBL?

  • Julie M. Smith

    smallaxe,

    You wrote, “The problem in RE’s case is that they see themselves on par with More Desirable University, and they treat their candidates as if they were applying for a job at More Desirable U.”

    You note in the OP that you have a “pretense to enthusiasm.”

    So . . . BYU is supposed to be completely honest about its disadvantages but it is OK for you to feign enthusiasm?

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    Sigh

  • Michael J.

    A religion professor at BYU is more-or-less a glorified institute teacher, granted this is probably any CES employee’s dream job. However, I don’t see why the Religion Department shouldn’t be able to expect the world from applicants when so many would quickly give up any other career aspirations just to be considered.

    @Julie M. Smith

    I think internet anonymity allows one to rest simply on the merits of their argument rather than who they are or aren’t. Discourse is purer when not colored by silly ad hominem attacks.

  • Kevin Barney

    This is an interesting (to me, at least), conversation.

    Unfortunately, in the end it’s Econ 101, supply and demand. In this environment, BYU could demand that applicants crawl naked on a dog leash to the Y and back, and they’d have 100 applicants waiting in line to do it, bloody knees and all.

  • http://Faith-promotingRumors K Hughes

    An observation from a lurker on Mormon Archipelego directed to those who blog on Faith-promoting Rumors: you all seem to take yourselves very seriously.

  • smallaxe

    So . . . BYU is supposed to be completely honest about its disadvantages but it is OK for you to feign enthusiasm?

    No, Julie, I feign enthusiasm because they are not “honest” about their disadvantages; but I may need the job. The alternative, which you seem to suggest, is to be upfront with them about my sentiments and let the chips fall where they may. FWIW, there are those on the faculty who I and others have had this conversation with. The institution is not monolithic and the fact that such views may or may not undermine one’s candidacy complicates your simplistic view of “honesty”, which seems to be your major issue with anonymity (although you also mention my cv).

  • smallaxe

    Unfortunately, in the end it’s Econ 101, supply and demand. In this environment, BYU could demand that applicants crawl naked on a dog leash to the Y and back, and they’d have 100 applicants waiting in line to do it, bloody knees and all.

    Right, but it doesn’t mean that they should; nor does it mean that such a process will create the best environment/department/college.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    I think there are two issues I’d like to hear more about.
    1. For those who have had this experience, is the attitude of BYU different from other employers, and how? I mean, I’m sure there are even more non-Mormons out there looking for these jobs. Are they all treated this way?
    2. Let’s say the those who can get jobs not at BYU do. Sure, there are 100 other people in line. So, what harm is done? Is this just an annoyance for grad students, or are there other issues at stake?

  • aliquis

    You remind me, oudenos, that I met your grandma! Great lady. Wouldn’t want to cause her any unnecessary stress.

  • Paul

    Dress code is also part of the fit one should think about. The correlation of business suits and religion is only getting stronger. I have seen the religion guys wearing suits, while the non-religion faculty get by on khakis and short sleeves. They are also better about haircuts than the other faculty which are occasionally neglectfully shaggy. smallaxe might be a pony-tail and khakis wearer, or the black sweater type, so this should also be integrated into his rating system. Peace and love no matter what one wears!

  • http://www.bycommonconsent.com John C.

    Ya’ll,
    I might suggest that general ragging on BYU and/or RelEd is probably inappropriate on this thread (although that is, of course, smallaxe’s call).

    Julie,
    I think that you are doing an excellent job of modeling RelEd’s most likely response to this missive.

  • http://www.thecreativemormon.com Bradly Baird

    Dear BYU Religious Education:

    Though it has now been a decade and a half since I was student on your campus, I would like to take this opportunity and express my sincerest gratitude to you for the religious education I received from your professors. I remember well my very first Book of Mormon course and the deeply caring woman who taught me to love this book and its precepts. She took the time to be interested in me as an individual and never shrugged off any concerns and questions I had. For this and many other wonderful moments in a religion class, I will be forever grateful. I am deeply appreciative of everyone who devotes their lives to the spiritual education of students at BYU.

    Sincerely,
    Brad Baird
    West Jordan, Utah

  • ceric

    Dear Author,
    You are full of vanity and pride.
    But so am I
    Goodbye

  • g.wesley

    smallaxe,

    taken with your recognition in #24 that rel ed is not monolithic, i agree with what i see as your main point: that rel ed is not a dream job for many lds grads.

    i know that there is at least one head of one of the search committees who is pretty aware of this. seems to me to be anyway.

    plenty of others probably aren’t. or maybe they are and think that ‘we’ lds grads who don’t see rel ed as a dream job are just spoiled brats, infected with phd, etc.

    my (divine) solution to the problem: let ces be gathered together unto one place, an institute of religion–the way it’s done everywhere else. and let an academic department of religion or whatever appear.

    and in the meantime, uh, well …

  • smallaxe

    Sorry, I’ve been away from the computer today. Let me try to address some of the main issues that have come up.

    I most certainly don’t want this to denigrate to ragging on RE. As Bradly notes, there are some marvelous things that result from RE. It would be great to participate in that.

    The problem, though, and this relates to TT’s question about an expectation gap and Julie’s question about why they should listen to “me”, is that RE is explicitly recruiting people with a PhD in a “religion-related area” (religious studies, history, philosophy, sociology, etc.). See their job ads for more on this.

    This is a turn away from their previous model of recruiting CES employees with PhDs in less religion-related fields (aspects of family therapy, for instance). The kinds of things that people with PhDs in religion-related fields want out of their career tend to be different from those who they have been hiring. Yet RE is slow to recognize this. They are used to being the Most Desirable College for those in CES; but, as I’m trying to point out, they are not the Most Desirable College for those graduating in religion related fields. This isn’t to say that those in religion related fields are “better” than those in CES, it’s just that they expect different things out of their career, and RE has not come to terms with that.

    So, why should they listen to me? Because I am one of the people they are targeting in their job ads. I am, apparently, one of the people that possibly _could_ teach in RE.

    On the issue of whether or not similar problems occur at other institutions, they certainly do. See this for more: http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Universities_to_fear

  • smallaxe

    Dear ceric,

    All is vanity.

    Best,

    SmallAxe

  • jks

    So let me get this straight.
    BYU RE is an average woman who thinks she is more desirable that you think she is. She is flirting with you because she is eager for your desirable PhD. You, however, really want to marry someone more desirable, but you think that she might not have you so you are put out that you are considering marrying average woman because average woman will assume that you will consider yourself lucky to have her but you think that she would would actually be the one lucky to get you.
    And marrying her means you will be off the market for eternity and you just aren’t ready to give up on the more desirable someone.
    However, IF average woman would be upfront about how average she is and thanked you profusely for considering her as a potential marriage partner, you might feel better about marrying her forever because you’d feel like she’d be grateful that you lowered yourself to marry her because she isn’t nearly as desirable as those desirable women you preferred. Her constant gratitude might bring you benefits like her fawning or giving your special treatment or at least be extra nice and the knowledge that she knows her inferiority would make you feel better through all those days of eternity.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    Nope, you do not have it straight. Re-wording the post as a parable might not be the best way of clarifying anything. It also does not make you look as clever as you think it does.

  • Scw

    Did you have any idea on your job opportunities prior to embarking on your education? How many PhD positions are there in your field? You should probably be grateful for any chance you get. But do my kids a favor and don’t teach at BYU, the last thing we need is a religion professor with a pissy attitude.

  • SmallAxe

    jks,

    There are some ways that one’s employer or place of employment is like a spouse, and other ways that it is not (thankfully) like a spouse. Friendship, for instance, is a key factor for a successful relationship with the latter, but not with the former.

    Analogies aside, I wonder if people would have the same negative reactions if I was talking about someplace other than BYU’s College of Religious Education. If, for instance, I said that I spent 10 years being trained as an aerospace engineer, and the only place I might be employed is Southwest Airlines, who happens to think that they are on par with NASA; I wonder if I would have elicited a different reaction. Not that an aerospace engineer might not be happy working at Southwest. It’s a perfectly fine career. The problem, though, is with the self-perception of the company and their attempts to recruit aerospace engineers, and the assumption that these engineers will simply fit into their company–after all, if Southwest is one par with NASA, why should it change?

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    I actually think JKS raises an important issue about the way that this post is being understood. I’d venture to say that this is not what was meant, and I think oudenos’ observation that the comparison between a professional choice and an intimate relationship is to not recognize the differences.

    I’m sure that jks and scw and julie, if they are employed, don’t think that criticism of their employers or potential employers on issues relating to how their jobs are structured is some forbidden topic. If smallaxe were a doctor of business administration, and suggested that BYU’s business school was a less desirable place to work than its competitors because of XYZ, I doubt that you all would react the same way. FWIW, the lack of majors, high teaching loads, and the inability to teach the things that one is trained in are not divinely ordained ways of organizing BYU RE, and are points where one should be allowed to offer critique. The fact is that graduate students are quite aware of the careers available to them, and I’m sure that lacking alternatives, BYU is a a perfectly acceptable place to be. If, however, BYU wants people who are academically trained to teach religion (and they manifestly do, from reading their job announcements), they should be aware that the way that they currently structure their program makes it a less desirable place to work.

    What I think jks (and julie) raises is the issue of what smallaxe is asking for. Perhaps s/he can clarify. I don’t think it is praise, or a red carpet, or any of those things. Perhaps it is things like reducing the insanely high teaching load (I think the BYUH is a 5/5/2/2 load!), rewarding academic publications (rather than Deseret Book or FARMS), loosening the curriculum to allow for more range in what is taught, or even providing an academically rooted religious studies minor or major. Again, smallaxe can clarify, but I think those who think s/he is looking for BYU to kiss his/her feet are missing the point.

    SCW: “You should probably be grateful for any chance you get.”

    I think that this is precisely the attitude that BYU has often taken with its recruits, from the stories that I often hear. You can see how this condescension would not only be annoying, but ripe for abuse.

  • SmallAxe

    Did you have any idea on your job opportunities prior to embarking on your education?

    Not really; and I readily admit this is a problem. Too many people that go down the PhD route have a romanticized vision of what it is all about and what it entails.

    How many PhD positions are there in your field?

    As I mentioned above, about 15 per year.

    You should probably be grateful for any chance you get.

    Sure, but that shouldn’t stop me from evaluating my options.

    But do my kids a favor and don’t teach at BYU, the last thing we need is a religion professor with a pissy attitude.

    Ah… this is one of the main issues at stake though. I imagine that we want our children to be taught by the “best”, which in most cases means someone who has been trained in a particular discipline and has certain pedagogical skills and virtues. If my child wanted to know about engineering, I would want my child to be taught by the best engineers available.

    If my child wanted to learn something about religion, I would want them to be taught by those who are most knowledgeable about religion; and in the context of BYU, taught by those who are supportive of faith in the Gospel.

    What I’m saying here is that those who are the most knowledgeable about religion (not by my own self definition, but by Religious Education who is looking for people trained in “religion-oriented disciplines”), do not view Religious Education as highly as they regard themselves.

    Yet your reaction isn’t that this is a problem with Religious Education. Why not? If Norman Dentist proclaimed his dental practice the best in town, but all the other dentists considered it the 50th best in town, is this a problem with Norman Dentist or all the other dentists in town?

    To be more direct. I’m simply saying that if Religious Education wants the best; the only way they are going to get them is if they come reluctantly. Although, it not be this way.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Just as a quick analysis of the BYU RE full-time faculty of 70 persons.

    From the pictures, all but one are white.
    Only 5 are women.

    Educational Makeup:
    Non-relevant PhD (education, techology, family studies, etc): 25
    Unstated field of PhD: 9
    Biblical Studies/Near Eastern Studies: 20
    PhD from BYU: 14 (overlaps with other categories)
    No PhD or no listed PhD: 10
    Ancient Philology: 2
    US History: 6
    Archeology: 1
    Online Universities: 1
    Islam: 1
    Classics/Egyptology: 2

    This is a quick review, and probably mistaken in a few counts, but it is interesting to note a few things:

    1. If you add non-relevant fields to unstated fields, and those with no PhD, 64% (2/3rds) of the faculty of RE have no graduate training in religious studies or related fields.
    2. Biblical, ANE, ancient philology, and classics make up the bulk of next largest group. A closer look at that group reveals some interesting things as well, both good and bad.
    3. US history with emphasis on religion is surprisingly small, much fewer than I expected.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    No political science? Argh!

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    The other thing that is interesting to note is that no one is trained in theology.

  • smallaxe

    TT raises some good questions about the result of the expectation gap, and the practical steps that I’m suggesting be taken to resolve it. I do want to address these, but may not have time until later tonight.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.com Nitsav

    “But do my kids a favor and don’t teach at BYU, the last thing we need is a religion professor with a pissy attitude. ”

    I think this post is being misread. I don’t know any LDS grad students in related fields who are enthusiastic to go back to BYU for precisely the reasons laid out here, but it’s not due to a “pissy attitude.” Many of us have taught there, and students never mentioned any “pissy attitude” in my anonymous student reviews. To the contrary,I received many positive complements from my students AFTER the final was over. (No hidden motives there.)

    I very much agree with SmallAxe’s evaluation, and I’m one of the few who has expressed a desire to go back to byu, for various reasons. See my posts

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2008/06/a-brief-apologia-for-going-to-teach-in-the-religious-education-department-at-byu/

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2008/03/scattered-thoughts-on-ces-nuance-gray-areas-and-teaching-institute/

  • Paul Pry

    Dear Religious Education,
    I want to teach seminary for you. I would also like to work with individuals (CES profs) who do not have the same qualifications (this includes BYU PhDs and internet PhDs–synonymous qualifications), but maintain the same–perhaps more–clout than I in the department. This is mostly because I need an environment where I can conduct serious top-notch scholarship that will most likely conflict with my dogmatic spiritually drive pedagogy. I am willing to pretend that BYU studies, Sperry Symposium and other venues you cherish are not being laughed at and disregarded by the larger academic community. (This will be easy because most scholars studying religion don’t know they exist, or they believe that they are benign dross) Furthermore, I went on a mission and I can speak in soft tones, move people to tears, appeal to individual’s senses, and tell a story that is codified and known to my students already. (I will not alter these stories or attempt to analyze them) Therefore, I can teach for a summer or even take a one-year trial run without ruffling the feathers of the students and I can convince the CES profs in the department that they are not deluded.

    Rest assured, I believe that you are elite. God has called you to your position and you have reason to vet your candidates in abnormal ways. You need to find out if they fit your culture. I understand that Dr. [Edit], has published in all the right journals, agrees with the CES faculty, and is the best person to head your search committee. He has the ability to attract the best scholars that are willing to ditch their dissertation work for seminary teaching, proximity to their family, and an uncanny ability to teach great students whom are unwilling to question.

    I just have one question. Why pretend to an academic department? You lack academic freedom and you allow university credit to be gained at known institutes of religion that have no university accreditation. (U of U institute, for example) It seems that it would only be honest to admit that you were no more than the U of U institute! Your university affiliation seems to be to only reason you are attracting credible candidates. It seems to me that if you really were a legitimate academic entity you would be found under the Humanities College where the majority of your faculty could not make tenure. You are an institute of religion.

    This being said, I trained under the best linguists and historians at Chicago University and I have no other options for jobs. Please hire me so I can masquerade the Religious Education Department as a real department at BYU.

    Thanks for your consideration,
    Dr. Paul Pry
    Department of Classics
    Gwinnett University, GA

    For my current books see:
    Hermeneutics of the Nag Hammadi Scrolls
    Hebrew and Hermeneutics
    Reinterpreting the Historical Jesus

  • Paul Pry’s brother

    Paul,
    You forgot to mention the new guys are really selling the Rel Ed Dept as a legitimate academic department. Go Canada.

  • Scw

    I’m sorry that you are facing such a tight market, 15 people per year really is terrible. Good luck with your search.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Just as a note, while Smallaxe is away, we are currently trying to figure out what to do with “Paul Pry.”

  • Enoch

    g.wesley,

    I think you struck on the ideal solution…. BYU should form both an Institute of Religion AND an academic department of Religion. Everyone gets what they want, and knows what they are getting into.

    My friends who have taught Religion at BYU from an academic perspective have said their student evaluations are split down the middle… half saying that the teaching offended the Spirit and you “couldn’t even the teacher was Mormon!” ::gasp:: and the other half saying “finally, we are moving beyond Seminary!”

  • kew

    Wow, a 5-5-2-2 teaching load is horrendous. My field is more like 2-1 or possibly 2-2.

    I agree that there is a problem with BYU’s self-perception. I saw it my engineering department as well. While the professors aren’t allowed to discuss their salaries, they told me that working for the church was a service and therefore the church wouldn’t / couldn’t pay them competitively.

    I’d love to see academic religion at BYU. But won’t it just lead to serious academics being seen as apostates and a whole mess for everyone?

  • smallaxe

    TT asked about the harm that this expectation gap might bring about.

    I think Paul Pry’s comment presents an example of this. S/he is not in any way affiliated with FPR, nor do we know who s/he is. We debated deleting the comment, leaving it to my discretion. My sense is that it detracts from the tone I wish this conversation had. Some might read it and think that we condone such a view. However, the IP address and the content of the comment suggest that Paul Pry is a part of this conversation with RE; and provided with a forum to express his or her voice anonymously, he or she seized the moment.

    So, to begin to answer TT’s original question, the expectation gap creates a situation where those who do join RE, join without the opportunity to fully address the constraints of RE, and therefore eventually come to terms with these limitations or spend their career resenting them. Paul Pry sounds like someone who might come to resent them.

    More directly though, I’d say that the expectation gap could lead to situations where RE’s top candidates choose other jobs. Those graduating from Top Program University will elect to go elsewhere and RE will be left choosing those from Lesser University. Therefore, RE will always be fully of people from Lesser University. The problem, of course, as noted in the OP, is that the market is so tight that many of those even from Top Program U are not getting jobs; and if you look at many of their recent hires they come from a top tier university.

    My other suspicion is that it will lead to situations where those hired in RE work the system in an attempt to achieve some of their other ambitions. Here’s what I mean–How “well” a prof is doing in RE is judged almost solely on their student evaluations. A RE prof only teaches 2 or 3 different classes, which are repeated every semester every year. So if you find ways to cater your teaching to high student evals, spend as little time as possible preparing for class (made easier by the fact that you teach the same lesson over and over), and grade by means of scantron rather papers, it’s a recipe to allow for lots of time to write. Personally, I don’t have a huge problem with this. This is the way a lot of teaching-oriented institutions sell themselves. This hasn’t been, however, the way that RE has sold themselves; and I don’t see them moving in this direction because so much of their self-perception is invested in pedagogy, and what I describe sounds like a devaluing of pedagogy.

    TT also asked about suggestions I have for RE; and my initial response to this also relates to the harms of the expectation gap. The most immediate harm is that candidates have little to no opportunity to see if room can be made for them in RE. The sense is that questioning the way things are done will undermine your candidacy.

    So as far as specific suggestions are concerned, I’d start with addressing the issue of why RE now wants those with a PhD in a religion-oriented field teaching in RE. Why not keep doing what they have been doing in filling RE with CES personnel? What do these religion-oriented PhDs offer that those they have been hiring don’t? How does this impact the objectives of RE and how those objectives are achieved? And, is it possible to pour new wine into old wineskins?

    In my honest assessment, the sense I get is that RE wants people with fancy degrees who will basically do what RE is already doing. The strongest asset these PhDs provide is not a grasp of any particular body of knowledge or skill set in relation to understanding religion; instead it’s a veneer of credibility these PhDs provide to the rest of BYU and the world–”We have PhDs from Top Program University, so we must be headed in the right direction.”

    I genuinely want my “sense” to be wrong, but I’ve heard little to suggest otherwise.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Julie M. Smith — liked your comments.

    Part of the problem is that for a certain subset of candidates, on a scale of 1-15, with 15 being best, BYU is at level 20 for them.

    For others, they are willing to do anything for a shot at a job. BYU does nothing to hide the disadvantages (and they are obvious to anyone) … so one should consider what should be hidden by applicants.

    I actually think JKS raises an important issue about the way that this post is being understood. — that really nails the cross-talk in the posts.

  • g.wesley

    enoch,

    i am kind of partial to the idea, i admit. and as you say, it could potentially resolve the frustration of students (and their parents) as well as faculty. but it will probably never happen.

    kew,

    yes, academic religion or whatever at byu likely would just lead to serious academics being seen as apostates and a whole mess for everyone. until, like, evolution, it came to be accepted maybe?

    smallaxe,

    i think you ask a great question about why the change in recruiting phd’s. i wish i were privy to the department meetings over the years in which this was discussed (debated?) and decided. your suspicion is probably at least partly correct. i also think that some are genuinely hoping and trying to achieve some kind of balanced mix, whether or not that is possible. who knows but that their efforts will lead an apocalyptic crisis and the inadvertent establishment of an institute and separate academic department of the sort in my (failed) prophesying? in which case we may end up owing them some gratidute, even if we would rather not have had their jobs.

    about religion per se, and regarding tt’s breakdown of the 70 faculty, i don’t think that religion is really what rel ed is looking for, at least to judge from course offerings. sure there’s a world religions course or two, but mostly it’s (judaism and christianity as) mormonism.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Recruiting the faculty they are seeking would definitely be part of evolving the program to be more than it is right now (which is a very specified part of the university’s general education program).

    I’ve rethought the disclosure part of it. Obviously anyone who has taken a PhD in the area lacks enough insight, ability to research or prepare or perspective to make any intelligent employment planning and so needs more information …

    Ok, enough sarcasm from me today. This probably uses up my monthly quota.

  • smallaxe

    Stephen,

    I don’t see the same level of cross-talk that you do. Perhaps I haven’t been clear. This post could be dismissed as just one of the many candidates going off the handle, with many more candidates right behind that will do anything for a job at RE. However, I’d venture to say that I know far more candidates than you (or Julie) do(es), and that RE ranks at just about the same spot for most of them (not BYU at large, mind you, since a job in any other department is vastly different). Any candidate on the market knows how difficult getting any job is, so the “willingness to do anything” isn’t because of any particular advantage that RE has; instead it’s the stark reality of landing a tenure track job. RE doesn’t hide its disadvantages because many of them do not believe they are serious; and no candidate dares address them because criticism will only lead to the very same attitude you show here–”we’ve got tons of talent waiting in the ranks, who needs someone who doesn’t want to be here.”

  • g.wesley

    ditto, oudenos.

    part of the problem, i think, is that in rel ed the faculty (are expected) more directly (to) teach ‘the gospel’ rather than an academic subject and so they are especially constrained in what they can say and run the greatest risk of offending their audience/peers.

    even in other departments an instructor may offend a student with his ‘sacrastic’ and ‘sacreligious’ remarks of course but not much will be done about it if anything.

  • Julie M. Smith

    I’ve been away from this post for a few days, but I just wanted to say that I (can’t speak for anyone else, of course) would have reacted the same had this been BYU’s engineering dept. or whatever other discipline. I don’t think complaining about RelEd is some special kind of verboten.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    Julie,

    This post would never be written about the Political Science department at BYU. They rock! (which is to say…they paid me for a year).

    But, more seriously, while I think this could apply to other parts of BYU, RE is quite the unique beast.

    I would like to say that you all are really just bitter that Casper College does offer any religion classes…yet. :)

  • SmallAxe

    Of course, Julie; your issues with anonymity know no bounds.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)
  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    I’d venture to say that I know far more candidates than you (or Julie) do(es), and that RE ranks at just about the same spot for most of them (not BYU at large, mind you, since a job in any other department is vastly different). Any candidate on the market knows how difficult getting any job is, so the “willingness to do anything” isn’t because of any particular advantage that RE has; instead it’s the stark reality of landing a tenure track job.

    I think we very much agree on those points. I thought that was what I was saying.

    On the other hand, it would be good to see the department branch out beyond general education service.

    Which may well be happening.

  • Julie M. Smith

    I have no idea what #60 is supposed to mean.

  • Kevin Barney

    I disagree that RE at BYU used to be all CES types and that the desire for people with actual religion degrees is only a recent phenomenon. I was a TA to a prof of ancient scripture in the early 80s, and there was a definite (and at times acrimonious) split in RE between the religion degree types and the education/counseling/whatever CES types. My perception was that the religion degree types were a minority, but a significant minority with a certain amount of clout of their own. They would hold (clandestine?) meetings to plot strategy to help RE move in the direction of more religion degree hires, which in recent years appeara to have born fruit.

    There’s no question but that religion degree hires have accelerated in recent years, which I personally view as a positive development. But it’s not accurate to say that in the past there simply weren’t any people with religion degrees from top universities. There has been a tradition of such hires within RE dating all the way back to the Sperry/Nibley axis for more than half a century.

  • Nitsav

    According to the High Nibley biography, some people (including Elder Widtsoe) were concerned about the non-scholarly nature of religion teaching at BYU back in the 50′s. Nibley was one of multiple (I think) recruited.

  • smallaxe

    I disagree that RE at BYU used to be all CES types and that the desire for people with actual religion degrees is only a recent phenomenon.

    I just browsed through the comments, so I’m not sure if I missed it, but I’m not sure anyone said that RE used to be all CES types.

    Certainly if you go back far enough this wasn’t the case: http://rsc.byu.edu/sites/default/files/review/2009WinterWeb.pdf (see page 8).

    My sense, though, is that since the Chartered Course CES types have been dominant (which is more or less what you’re saying). Even most of those trained in religion related fields, which were the minority, also came through CES. I think Stephen Robinson (http://newtestament.byu.edu/robinson.php) is a notable exception; and David Seely (http://newtestament.byu.edu/seely.php) more recently. This isn’t to say that those who came through CES, and were trained at some of the best universities (or any other faculty), weren’t a part of the redirection.

  • Kevin Barney

    smallaxe, I was reacting to this paragraph:

    “So as far as specific suggestions are concerned, I’d start with addressing the issue of why RE now wants those with a PhD in a religion-oriented field teaching in RE. Why not keep doing what they have been doing in filling RE with CES personnel? What do these religion-oriented PhDs offer that those they have been hiring don’t? How does this impact the objectives of RE and how those objectives are achieved? And, is it possible to pour new wine into old wineskins?”

    But from your reaction it’s clear you didn’t mean it in the absolute way I took it, so never mind.

  • smallaxe

    I can see how you could take it that way.

    I was speaking in terms of the way that the job ads have changed to search more specifically for those with training in religion related fields.

  • Kevin Barney

    Thanks for the clarification.

  • g.wesley

    speaking for myself, i have fallen into the my-generation-is-special-and-facing-these-issues-for-the-first-time trap.

    prompted by kevin’s comment (boy if only we could read about those [clandestine?] meetings) i picked up the signature published (gasp!) book by bergera and priddis, brigham young university: a house of faith, which i found on the shelves of my ward house library, by the way.

    reading chapters 2 and 4 was highly informative and actually if unexpectedly encouraging.

    among other things i had no idea that there has already been at different times and to various extents an academic department or college or division of religion at byu before, complete with graduate program.

    the rise and decline, rise and decline of ‘secularism’ appears to have been more or less ever repeating on the micro level, with course offerings in religion and religious studies fluctuating sometimes very drammatically at each turn. (overall trends on the macro level are hard to assess, since bergera-priddis was published in 1985 and i don’t know of a recent history of rel ed. anyone?)

    perhaps most surprising to me was learning about university president oaks’ leadership.

    according to bergera and priddis, first the grad program in the college was disbanded.

    then oaks moved to have religion courses go ungraded, recognizing that this “might … relegate religion courses to an inferior academic status.” this move faced opposition (religion dean roy doxey “was particularly alarmed that the president would suggest ‘that religion courses should not be equal with academic courses in the university’”) and didn’t happen.

    but then in 1973 the “official designation [of the college of religion] as an academic college was discontinued” and its departments broken up and reassigned. “ancient scripture and church history and doctrine were transferred to ‘a newly created entity known as ‘religious instruction’ (later religious education),” and “the philosophy department [formerly part of religion] was transferred to the college of general studies.”

    so it would seem that what is now the college/school of religious education was established as a non-academic (though university affiliated) entity. that president oaks envisioned it as something like an institute of religion or seminary rather than an academic entity is apparent from his position that “all university faculty who are lds are eligible to be assigned to teach formal religion courses.”

    at the same time, oaks’ plan included “the development of ‘specialized religion courses, seminars, and lectures for seniors and graduate students.’” this is something like the same kind of separation between academic and devotional religion at byu that i (divinely) suggested above (trumpets sound), although i see no indication that president oaks wanted to establish a stricly academic department of religion or whatever separate from ‘religious instruction’ later become rel ed.

    still, why didn’t the separation work?

    as i say, i don’t know of a treatment of the period from the 1980s to the present, bringing us to the current situation in which rel ed has regained its official designation as academic.

    one ought to be written if it does not already exist.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    This has been a very interesting thread and I just want to address two small points.

    1. The idea that there are so many people in line for BYU RE that essentially any hiring practice (asking candidates to teach for a summer or a year before being considered for full-time employment, publications in LDS only venues despite the damage that such publications could do for other career prospects, etc) is justified because of the market bears need for closer examination. The fact is that no matter how many qualified LDS candidates there are, the numbers are far fewer than those that compete for non-LDS jobs. In reality, my best guess is that in any given year, there are between 5-10 LDS candidates that meet the criteria that BYU RE is looking for in these ads (though they get many more applicants, I’m sure). In contrast, a friend of mine applied for a biblical studies job at a non-LDS institution and there were 150 applicants. The sheer numbers of non-LDS candidates and the few non-LDS jobs out there suggest that BYU RE jobs are far, far less competitive than other academic jobs in the same field (and it should surprise no one that some of the RE faculty would not be competitive in the non-LDS market). Complaints about the disproportionately burdensome hiring practices of BYU should not be dismissed simply because there are 5 or 6 other people who are willing to do it. Non-LDS institutions have followed a set of industry hiring standards for tenure track positions that do not take advantage of candidates (though I wish this were true for non-tenure track positions). BYU could choose to adhere to these standards that all other institutions follow, including Ivy League schools, if they wished. There is nothing particularly special about the fact that more than one person applies for a job at BYU.

    2. Kevin’s reminder that these issues have been around for decades in RE provides an interesting historical perspective. One wonders why those advocating for change were unsuccessful in the past, and what makes those who are there now advocating for change optimistic? What is different now that should make things better for change than they have always been? Perhaps one could say that the 1990′s lost a lot of candidates who could have been qualified, like Sheldon Greaves, in his Dialogue article. Perhaps the other cultural shifts in the church during those decades made it too difficult. Whatever the cause, this fact should give some pause to those who are optimistic for change given that their predecessors were similarly unsuccessful. Perhaps one reason for the optimism is the rather impressive cadre of young American historians and biblical studies types out there. If BYU can capitolize on this by attracting these candidates, persuading them that what BYU has to offer is better than their alternatives (rather than just eliminating from the list of potential hires those that don’t show a sycophantic devotion to BYU RE), then perhaps things will change.

  • smallaxe

    I’d second what TT said, except to point out that Religious Education shouldn’t be conflated with BYU, which by and large does follow industry standards.

  • http://researchfragments.blogspot.com Jonathan Green

    Smallaxe, I’m late to the conversation, and you might not ever see this. I’ll make just a few points.

    It’s an interesting dynamic, isn’t it? So few jobs that you’re qualified for, and so few qualified applicants for the BYU position. What if the intersection of jobs you want, and jobs you can get, is the empty set? What if the intersection contains only BYU? It really is enough to make one grumpy.

    I think it would help if you recognize that BYU’s job search is not primarily about you, that your feelings are, unfortunately, irrelevant. The institution has ideas about what kind of a person it wants, and maybe you might fit, but that’s all. The search process is meant only to serve BYU RE, period. That is true of faculty searches everywhere. (Which, I agree, does make the experience irritating and frustrating for those of us applying for jobs, unfortunately.)

    At the same time, I think it would help to reduce the scale of the decision. Don’t view it as some point in a grand scheme of institutional history. Instead, the questions you have to ask yourself are, will this job allow you to provide for yourself and/or your family? will it help you continue towards your professional goals? would you prefer to change careers altogether? Being prepared to walk away from an academic career is one way to keep yourself sane when on the job market.

    Also, you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself. You don’t have to make any decisions yet. If you apply, you might get an interview, and if you get an interview, you might get a job offer, but until that point comes, you don’t have to decide. You might find out some things during an interview that would help clarify your thoughts about RE.

    Also, there are a few assumptions that you might want to revisit.

    I’m not sure you’re reading the teaching load in RE at BYU correctly. The ad you linked to seems to describe 9 hours of teaching each semester, with 4 more in the summer, the equivalent of a 4-4 teaching load. While not the ideal for people who love research, it’s a very common teaching load, and it’s quite possible to remain an active scholar under those conditions. (BYUI and BYUH are different, of course, and I’m prepared to be corrected if I’ve misunderstood the RE teaching load.)

    Are you sure that RE is a life sentence? What matters most to moving on from RE, I would think, is publishing good research in top journals, and I don’t see that accepting a RE position would preclude you from doing that. You might find ways to write a syllabus that pleases both your department and some future search committee, or ways to describe your teaching experience that makes it comprehensible to them.

    Finally, the application procedure outlined in the BYUH ad (the full BYU ad doesn’t appear to still be online) strikes me as pretty normal. I’ve sent in a couple hundred job applications so far, and I don’t see anything out of the ordinary there. The same is true of teaching evaluations. I’ve taught in a half dozen places, and they all used student evaluations to one degree or another. That doesn’t guarantee that BYU RE will use them in a thoughtful way, but it does make them very typical of higher education in general.

    Good luck, in any case.

  • SmallAxe

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for the sage advice. My sense is that we agree on the major issues here. All things considered, RE is equivalent to a 4-4 teaching load position; the kind of position that constitutes a portion of tenure track jobs out there. IMO, these jobs are not bad, but neither are they highly desirable in comparison with other tenure track jobs.

    My point is not to disparage these kinds of positions. Rather, my point is to encourage RE to see their jobs from the perspective of those they want to fill them. As such, they are not near the top of the list of most desirable opportunities.

    I think it would help if you recognize that BYU’s job search is not primarily about you, that your feelings are, unfortunately, irrelevant.

    This is a totally supply-sided perspective; and in this market, yes, universities can afford to take such a stance, but a job is always about mutual fit. In the end, after an offer is made, the candidate must choose the institution as well. So at the very least my feelings become more relevant the further I make it in the search.

    One would also hope that candidates are treated as more than simply a body to fill a slot. While the positions you are applying for attract 100 plus qualified applications, the positions at RE attract far less. How many LDS’s graduate a year in religion related fields? No doubt, very few.

    My sense is that my feelings are widely shared in this pool, and as such I see them as quite relevant to the searches done for RE, although maybe not so relevant for any individual search involving me (as you point out).

    Also, you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself. You don’t have to make any decisions yet. If you apply, you might get an interview, and if you get an interview, you might get a job offer, but until that point comes, you don’t have to decide. You might find out some things during an interview that would help clarify your thoughts about RE.

    First, I should note that I haven’t made any decisions about whether or not I want the job. No real decisions can be made until an offer is extended, as you mention. The only decision I have made is that RE misperceives itself in terms of its desirability among LDS graduate students.

    Secondly, what you point out may be true about most other academic positions, but not for RE. When a tenure track position is posted, the job is meant for someone in mind–someone who has already done a VAP for them and/or spent several summers teaching their so they have student evals on them, someone who has taught institute classes, etc. A search in the traditional sense does not occur. As such, certain decisions about RE need to be made far ahead of time–do I head to Provo for a summer to teach, or prep for my comps, work on my prospectus, do fieldwork, work at McDonalds, etc.?

    This decision, when put to young graduate students, can set them on a track toward RE and away from other academic positions (although I admit that these kinds of decisions are not unique to RE; if someone does not have summer funding, s/he might have to find a job that similarly distracts).

    Are you sure that RE is a life sentence? What matters most to moving on from RE, I would think, is publishing good research in top journals, and I don’t see that accepting a RE position would preclude you from doing that.

    I’ve never heard of anyone leaving RE for another academic institution (although there very well may be those who have, and I’d be happy to hear about them).

    There are at least three things that impede faculty from moving on–the high teaching load and culture that emphasizes teaching (not unique to RE), the encouragement to publish in LDS venues, and the fact that the classes one teaches are devotional.

    Finally, the application procedure outlined in the BYUH ad (the full BYU ad doesn’t appear to still be online) strikes me as pretty normal.

    BYU used the same ad from which you can find an excerpt here: http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2007/10/byu-hiring-ancient-scrip-prof/

    This is far from normal.

    As for BYUH, I agree that the ad does read similar to other ads at other institutions, except for the fact that “candidates should have solid experience in teaching LDS religion classes at the university level.”

    However, I would say that the BYUH ad exhibits some of the same hubris I see at Provo. You walk away from the ad thinking that they want someone with serious research chops; but with a 5-4-3-3 teaching load over 11 months, how much research can they expect? This is even more apparent in their revised job ad found off of their website (http://religion.byuh.edu/sites/religion.byuh.edu/files/REL%20Fac%20Posting%20updated%20Oct%2022%202010.pdf) which requests applicants to send 3 writing samples (and a 15 minute DVD of the applicant teaching Isaiah 2). While I’m sure their are other places that will do this, I’ve personally never seen an ad request 3 writing samples up front. After the initial interview, perhaps, but not at the initial stage. I know many candidates who have been finalists at 3-3 teaching load institutions where they were never asked to see more than one writing sample (and not until the campus interview).

    Anyways, this is getting long although I’m happy to continue if you’re still following.