Higher EducationPolitics

On the Market III: BYU doesn’t deserve my application (or yours).

The conventional wisdom when it comes to the academic job hunt is to apply for every open position, no matter what it is or where it is located. After all, the reasoning goes, beggars can’t afford to be choosers, and you never know what kind of places might actually be a good fit.

This advice is wrong.

Not only is it wrong, it contributes to the disempowerment of early-career scholars on the job market. And I, for one, refuse to follow it. Instead, I am applying only to jobs about which I am genuinely enthused, and for which I think are a good fit for me on both a professional and personal level.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but the real catalyst in making this decision was a job posting this year from Brigham Young University, which, for those who aren’t familiar, is a private university owned and operated by the Mormon Church. BYU requires its faculty to abide by the same honour code as its students: i.e. no coffee, no beards, and no gays allowed. Well, ok, we’re allowed, as long as we stay celibate for life. How generous.

Now there’s a lot I’d be willing to give up for a job. I’d happily move to another continent for the right programme, and in fact I plan on applying to jobs in both Europe and Oceania this year. But I will under no circumstances beg for a job from an organization that would seek to deny me even basic human rights, and I would hope that any allies would feel the same way. Such a place simply doesn’t deserve to have its reputation enhanced by our hard work and scholarly contributions, no matter how well-funded or or state-of-the-art or otherwise attractive it may be.

The thing I found most disturbing, though, was the fact that other queer people in my field were not only considering applying to the job, but were actually encouraged by their advisors to apply.

This is not acceptable. Advisors have a moral duty to ensure that their career advice takes into account students’ needs beyond the bare minimum of employment in the field, and they should think carefully about what it means to encourage any young scholars to apply to schools like BYU that are clearly discriminatory in one way or another. Schools like BYU might even start to get the message if they start finding it difficult to attract the kind of talent they need to maintain their reputations.

But this is not a message that queer scholars can send alone. Everyone who cares about employment equality needs to stand up and say: “No, I refuse to lend my professional credibility to a school that openly discriminates against minorities and protected classes.”

And if that means another year on the market, so be it.


Featured image: Jaren Wilkey

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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal (paypal.me/dandonnelly) if you like his work!


  1. September 11, 2015 at 11:09 am —

    Not just that. If you’re an Indian…LDS does not like talking about Mountain Meadows. In fact, a lot could be said about LDS’s historical positions on race.

  2. September 12, 2015 at 6:21 pm —

    The “conventional wisdom” that I received and followed when I was on the job market (late 90s, and then again 2002-2005 every year) was to apply to all places that you’d be willing to try to be at. That is, don’t just apply for the ones you want, apply also for the ones you think you’d be willing to tolerate (both in terms of position, duties, expectations, and of course location). I’d say you are right on the money on this one. (On one of my rounds, Kansas had just gone down the creationism rabbit hole for the nth time, so I decided to not apply to any Kansas school; but I certainly applied to lots of places that I would probably not have liked, e.g., Pocatello, Idaho, but might have been willing to tolerate).

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