BYU Grads Accused of Sexist Views Wednesday, February 28, 2001
BY KIRSTEN STEWART
(c) 2001, THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
A group of Brigham Young University science faculty members have
apologized to the University of Utah's medical school for a sexist
displayed by some of BYU science graduates, vowing to address the issue
The faculty members also said such views do not reflect their
toward women who pursue careers.
"Thank you for making us aware of this problem, and accept our
for the limited vision of those persons in your program who make wrongful
judgments about medical training for women," the BYU faculty members
in a letter sent to Victoria Judd, associate dean of the U.'s medical
The Feb. 20 letter was signed by 24 professors.
Judd declined to discuss the issue of sexism in the U.'s medical
though some students say they have experienced sexist attitudes and both
schools apparently are taking steps to address the problem.
In fact, Kent Crookston, dean of the BYU College of Biology and
Agriculture, fears that continued problems might lead the U. to reduce
graduates accepted into the state's only medical program, according to a
obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.
The Provo school, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, first heard complaints about sexist attitudes of some former
in early January during an impromptu meeting with Judd.
Crookston described the meeting in a memo e-mailed Jan. 13 to all
personnel and released a copy to The Tribune on Monday.
According to Crookston's memo, Judd told BYU administrators: "Over
past several years, some of the male students in [the U.'s medical]
have flagrantly belittled female students, challenging their fit in a
professional program that rightfully belongs to men, asserting that women
ought to get on with the business of raising children. Unfortunately, she
said, it appeared that almost all of the harassment originated from
Crookston, who did not attend the January meeting, said acceptance of
students was being revisited. He encouraged the college's faculty to do
part in preventing sexist attitudes from flourishing on campus.
Judd wouldn't comment on the memo, which she has not seen. She also
declined to elaborate on the January meeting except to acknowledge that
met with Don Bloxham, BYU's pre-med student advisor, and another
administrator "about multiple issues."
But Judd's visit set off an alarm among BYU's pre-med faculty, said
Crookston. So much so that William Bradshaw, a professor of zoology at
wrote Judd a letter expressing concern about attitudes toward women in
U.'s program on behalf of himself and 23 other faculty.
The letter says BYU faculty are committed to encouraging female
in pursuing post-graduate training. "We have specifically criticized
negative attitudes which discourage our women by suggesting that their
[to go to medical school] is illegitimate," the letter states.
The letter concludes with a pledge to "eliminate these unfortunate
attitudes" and says the issue has already been "readdressed" in many of
The task will not be easy, said Crookston, because BYU students'
attitudes often originate in settings and circumstances beyond the
or control of the college and because of the nature of sexist
It can be as subtle, Crookston wrote in his memo, as the note found
tacked to a BYU classroom building wall advertising a social for pre-med
students that said "wives are welcome." The frequency with which Utahns
to women as "girls" could also be interpreted as sexist, he said.
In interviews with a half dozen female medical students at the U.,
said the administration's complaints of sexism are exaggerated. Three
described incidents of subtle discriminatory behavior and one complained
repeated incidents of blatant sexism and sexual harassment.
But the students who had experienced some sexism said the problem
limited to former BYU or Mormon students.
Still, first- and second-year medical students at the U. say they
asked to attend a talk on diversity last September.
"It seemed like we were getting lectured," said Josh Larson, a BYU
alumnus and first-year medical student.
He said sexism is not a widespread problem, but clearly is something
administration wants to "nip in the bud."
Janet Halter, another BYU graduate and fourth-year medical student,
her class wasn't required to attend such lectures. "Maybe it's a bigger
problem for the first-year class, because more women were admitted than
the past." Forty-five percent of the students in the U.'s program are
-- up from 29 percent just five years ago.
The U.'s medical school has been criticized in the past for accepting
fewer BYU than U. graduates, though the number of applicants from the two
schools is comparable.
If there is any bias in the U.'s admissions, it's a bias toward
students, Judd said. The majority of the U.'s matriculated medical
78, are Utah residents, most of whom graduated from in-state schools.
In 1999, more BYU students were accepted into the medical school than
other student group. But this year, and the four years prior to 1999, U.
undergraduates had the highest acceptance rate, which, Judd said, is
reflection of the quality of U. applicants.
Crookston said he isn't convinced that sexist attitudes are more
among BYU students than at other schools, such as the University of
where he taught for 30 years.
Medicine and the hard sciences are notorious for perpetuating a
bias despite gains women have made toward equality in other professional
fields, he said.
What worries Crookston, however, is that female students at BYU won't
complain about sexism they encounter because of the LDS Church's emphasis
family and the role of motherhood.
"It could be even worse here and we just don't hear about it," he