Chapter Two: A Collision of Rights

President Park made significant progress towards establishing the powers of the nascent central administration and defining the role of faculty. Park and his successor Joseph T. Kingsbury (selected in 1897) helped draft rules, organize meetings, and clarify matters such as rank, pay, and lines of communication for faculty. While the Regents had diversified in terms of religious affiliation by the early 1900s,[5] their stipulated role to serve as “fathers and guardians” of the institution had not changed. They focused much of their attention in the early decade on lobbying the legislature for a consistent source of funding. Rather than annual appropriations, the Regents successfully developed “The Mill Tax Plan” in 1906 to facilitate University growth and planning, which passed during the 1911 legislative session (Chamberlin 1960, 245). The University received $170,539 from the state that year and $16,160 from tuition and fees (ibid.) and the University grew. It started a new law school, a new medical school, and the number of faculty and enrolled students tripled between 1900 and 1915 (Chamberlin 1960, 245 and 255).

The University’s growth and maturity, as evidenced by a stronger central administration, gave its new faculty certain expectations. The faculty directly petitioned the Regents for raises in 1904 citing cost of living, salaries of other occupations, and faculty workload. The Regents increased salaries by ten percent. The faculty must have also directly petitioned President Kingsbury because he followed up with another salary request in 1906. Kingsbury also petitioned for “leaves of absence” for faculty “for the purpose of self improvement and gathering information that will better fit [them] for work in the University” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, Box 6). President Kingsbury proposed granting leaves after ten years of employment (the term ‘sabbatical’ was not used in the minutes). The Regents denied Kingsbury’s salary request so the faculty submitted another direct petition in November 1906.

While it was not apparent whether the second request for raises was granted or denied, it appeared that the faculty still felt concerned about compensation and professional development and apparently at odds with Kingsbury. Kingsbury was born and raised in Utah, attended the University of Deseret, and did graduate work at Illinois Wesleyan University before joining the faculty at the University of Utah in 1878. The Utah Chronicle described President Kingsbury’s leadership style as “conciliatory” (University of Utah Chronicle 1915). It was not clear from the minutes or from Kingsbury’s papers what his relationship was like with the faculty, but given the fact that the faculty twice petitioned the Regents directly, it was possible that many of them saw him as too much of a local who might have a difficult time disagreeing with those he may have affiliated with as a former student, early professor, or fellow Mormon. It may also be likely that the professors remained unaware that the bylaws indicated only the President was permitted to communicate with the Regents.

After yet another discussion about raises on April 8, 1907, Kingsbury expressed concern about outside remunerative work and asked the Regents to set up rules and regulations. The Regents formed a committee to suggest “rules that should govern in the employment of teachers […] and to draft a form of contract between the University and its employees” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, Box 6, Apr 8 1907 meeting).

An employment contract was in place by April 24, 1907. The minutes did not include a copy of the contract; however, it appeared that the contract banned outside work because at the May 9, 1907 Regents meeting several professors appeared and asked for permission to continue outside work for entities such as the YMCA and the State Board of Education. One professor asked for permission to conduct engineering work outside the institution, but the Regents denied the request and reminded the professor that he signed a contract accepting the conditions. He appealed, but was again denied with the Regents voting to remind him “if he desires at any time to do outside work, he is to apply to President Kingsbury for permission to do so” (ibid.). A professor of anatomy resigned because he “could not accept the position […] under the requirements of the Board” (ibid.) Neither could former University President James E. Talmage (1894-1897) stating that he “did not work for the Regents” since he was an endowed professor. The Regents disagreed stating the rules applied to all employees including endowed positions. At the September 5, 1907 meeting the Regents replaced Talmage with Professor Fred James Pack.

The faculty again petitioned the Regents in January 1910 asking for raises and suggesting a formal schedule of salaries. The petition included work expectations: “not more than 15 hours of recitation, lecture or lab work per week” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm). The faculty cited the increase in the number of professors with PhDs (a 7% increase since 1900) and pointed to a Salt Lake Herald-Republican editorial which argued for the necessity of outside work so that professors could “make ends meet” noting that Utah was below the middle compared to other western universities in terms of pay (ibid.).

The Regents did not respond to any of the direct faculty petitions. President Kingsbury further complicated matters in 1910 when he banned professors from running for political office. He offered no explanation other than a reference to the new employment contract and its stated restrictions on outside work (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm).

Soon after requiring an employment contract and not responding to the various salary requests, the Regents mandated that all faculty undergo tuberculosis testing, covering the costs themselves, and only allowing them to see a Regent-approved physician. One professor—Maud May Babcock—objected to this on grounds that only male physicians were listed and she preferred a female physician, but the Regents denied her request (ibid.).

Further Unrest: Tenure, Faculty Firings, and Free Speech

On November 1, 1913, the Regents received a statement signed by forty-seven faculty members “setting forth certain reasons for the feeling of unrest which seems to exist at the University, and asking that the Board of Regents take under consideration the questions of, (1) The tenure of office of University teachers, and (2) The nature of the relationship that should exist between the teachers and the University“ (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm). Like previous petitions, the Regents did not discuss the matter at the December 8, 1913 or January 26, 1914 meetings. It was tabled indefinitely during the February 5, 1914 meeting.

On October 29, 1914, students had invited a speaker (only referred to as Mr. Evans) to talk about the nature of politics in Utah. According to the Utah Chronicle, Kingsbury and the Regents interpreted the invitation and speech as an “attempt of political leaders to induce students to vote the Democratic ticket” (University of Utah Chronicle 1914).

Concerns reached a pinnacle in early 1915 when President Kingsbury sent letters to four professors stating their contracts would not be renewed and demoting another professor. The professors included Ansel A. Knowlton, Associate Professor of Physics; George Chester Wise, Assistant Professor of Modern Languages and Secretary of the Faculty; Charles Wilbert Snow, Instructor in English and Phil Carleton Bing, Instructor in English. Initially, the President provided little explanation and did not allow for discussion, hearings, or statements; his only rationale being that his decision was good for the University. Word got out and several newspaper articles on the issue appeared by the end of February 1915 (University of Utah President’s Office 1893-1915, Box 6).

Soon after the newspapers reported the event, the Regents held an executive committee meeting to discuss “the situation arising from the statements that four members of the faculty will not be recommended for re-employment” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm). The minutes did not reflect discussion about reasons for the dismissals other than agreeing with President Kingsbury to not re-employ the professors.

By the middle of March, newspaper articles appeared daily in local papers. In response, the Regents issued a lengthy public statement in the Salt Lake Herald Republican (March 18, 1915) where President Kingsbury finally stated his reasons for not renewing contracts for Professors Knowlton and Wise: working against the administration, speaking poorly of the Chairman of the Board, espousing a negative view of the University to students, and being disloyal to the President of the University. With regard to Professors Snow and Bing, Kingsbury cited department re-organization as the primary reason for dismissal.

The Regents offered their own response in the Herald-Republican: “It is argued to the board that professors and instructors should have the right of free thought, free speech and free action. This cannot be and is not the question. The board, however, has the same rights. These privileges are reciprocal. When the rights of the two clash then it is for the board to determine which is right and which course serves, or is inimical to, the best interests of the university. Someone must have the right and responsibility to decide such matters and the law has vested it in the board” (University of Utah President’s Office 1893-1915, Box 6).

Despite demands from faculty, students, the Alumni Association, and the Salt Lake Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Regents refused to conduct an investigation. This prompted fourteen professors (roughly 20% of the faculty) to resign in protest, including the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Byron Cummings. A portion of his published statement in the March 19, 1915 Salt Lake Telegram described his reasoning:

Unless the University of Utah is to be a place where men and women are to deal frankly and openly with each other and where the young men and women of the state are to be taught to think and act for themselves and have a respected voice and part in the affairs of the institution, I do not see how we are going to train them to be self respecting, independent and capable citizens of a commonwealth. An education that is less than this has no right to be called higher education and I desire no share in the promotion.

Students held a rally and a mock funeral on campus to show their support and approximately 300 students (25% of the student body) said they would not return the next year if the fourteen professors resigned. The Regents responded by creating the Regents’ Faculty Relations Committee as a way of establishing good will with the fourteen professors. The professors, however, were not swayed and many left to other universities: University of Arizona, University of Minnesota, Reed College, Fargo College, Westminster College in Colorado, University of Southern California, and the University of Iowa (University of Utah Chronicle 1915). One of the originally fired professors—Professor Snow—went on to become a Democratic Governor of Connecticut in 1946.

President Kingsbury accepted the resignations of the fourteen professors on March 20, 1915. The Alumni Association continued to push for an investigation and created a committee of twenty-five to oversee the process. They asked for cooperation of the Regents on April 13, 1915, but the Regents declined saying that their solution had been to establish the new Regents’ Faculty Relations Committee. They also posed the rhetorical question of who actually ran the University—the Regents, the faculty, or the students (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm).

The First Academic Senate at the University of Utah

Information about the Regents’ Faculty Relations Committee was discussed at the April 5, 1915 faculty meeting where Kingsbury appointed seven professors to discuss ideas about a “plan of administration.” This “Committee of Seven” recommended the creation of an Administrative Council to “determine all matters relating to the educational policy and administration of the University; apportionment of funds among schools and departments, the division of courses between departments, the removal or the appointment of a head of a department, promotions of Faculty members, departures from the salary schedule, the removal of a member of the Faculty by failure to recommend or otherwise, and such other matters as may be referred to it by the President or the Faculty” (University of Utah Administrative Council 1915, 3). The Council was to consist of the President, Deans, and five elected members from the faculty. The faculty also voted to create a Nominating Committee to work with the President “in the selection of men to fill the positions of the resigning fourteen members” (ibid.).

The first elected members of the Administrative Council included George Fellows (History and Political Science), Osborne Widtsoe (English), and Andrew Anderson (Ancient Languages and Literature). Elections occurred by secret ballot during the April 1915 meeting of all eighty faculty. The newly elected members of the Nominating Committee supplemented the three professors to form the full Administrative Council: James Lambert Gibson (Mathematics), George Coray (Economics and Sociology), Fred James Pack (Geology), Frederick Reynolds (Extension and English), and Levi Young (History and Archaeology). The Regents’ Faculty Relations Committee accepted the newly formed Council and the plan.

American Association of University Professors Investigates

Arthur O. Lovejoy, the philosopher from Johns Hopkins University and Secretary of the newly formed American Association of University Professors (AAUP) read about the fourteen faculty resignations in the New York Evening Post while on the train from Baltimore to New York City in early April 1915. Once he arrived in New York, Dr. Lovejoy went directly to the home of AAUP President and Columbia University professor John Dewey and explained the contents of the Evening Post editorial. They decided “it was up to us” to investigate. AAUP had no funds at the time so Professor Dewey agreed to personally pay the expense of Dr. Lovejoy’s rail fare to Salt Lake City. Dewey went to the bank the next morning and presented Lovejoy with $300 (worth approximately $7,000 in today’s dollars) and he was on the train by the evening (Metzger 1961, 207).

Dr. Lovejoy sent the Regents a telegram upon arriving in Salt Lake City and they invited him to their April 8, 1915 meeting where they had congenial discussions. Dr. Lovejoy informed the Regents that other institutions—Stanford and Johns Hopkins—struggled with similar matters of university governance. He tried to put a positive spin on the issue by saying the current situation could “result in placing the University of Utah in the forefront of those institutions in which the Faculty is given a voice in the administrative affairs” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm, Apr 8 1915 meeting). Dr. Lovejoy then presented them with questions to address as part of his investigation. The Regents agreed to respond separately in due time.

On April 17, 1915, the Regents responded by registered mail to Dr. Lovejoy’s questions. The first two questions had to do with continuous reappointment and expectations or presumptions on the part of the faculty. The Regents responded by saying there was no rule in place; rather, an understanding existed that continuous reappointment occurred after a “number of years of satisfactory service” and referred to the last salary and rank schedule published in 1902 (ibid.). They further explained their practice: “professors are nominated by the President of the University after consultation with heads of departments, the deans and the appropriate Regents’ committee, and are confirmed or appointed by the Board of Regents” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm, Apr 8 1915 meeting). The report noted that “professors under the law can be engaged for one year only [and under Utah statute] all contracts with professors, etc., may be terminated at any time at the will of the Board whether such contract is for a definite or for an indefinite period” (ibid.). The Regents referenced the fact that in “nearly forty years only eight professors have failed re-nomination, and of these, four failed because of friction between the professors themselves making it imperative that the University should dispense with the service of one or both of the disputants” (ibid.).

The Regents reiterated their understanding that “they may at any time refuse to reappoint a professor, without specific charges against him, [and] without a hearing” (ibid) and quoted 1907 Utah code: “All contracts hereafter made with professors, instructors, or employees, whether for a definite time or indefinite time, shall be subject to termination at the will of the Board, or of its executive committee, if the Board be not in session, when the interests of the University so require.” They also reiterated that they had never exercised this right.

The next set of questions had to do with the Regents’ relationship with the President as it pertained to faculty nominations. Dr. Lovejoy wanted an explanation about how much power Kingsbury had and cited Kingsbury’s statement that he would offer his resignation if the Board wanted to go against his wishes to not retain Professors Knowlton and Wise. The Regents claimed that specific names were not known at the initial March 1915 meeting where Kingsbury announced that he had refused to extend the contracts of the four professors.

Dr. Lovejoy also asked about conditions of employment at the University and asked if expectations of employment disallowed faculty from speaking unfavorably of the University in private and prohibited them from expressing opinions to students on the educational standing of the institution. The Regents said these were not conditions of employment and took offense to Dr. Lovejoy’s statement that “the board none the less, by adopting the President’s recommendations, which he declared to be based on these reasons, permitted him to terminate a professor’s connection with the University wholly or partly upon grounds which the Board does not regard as proper grounds for such action” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm).

Lovejoy’s investigation underscores the fact that Utah’s first nationally prominent incident involving the University related to freedom of speech, expression, and association, not religion. A prominent example of a religious freedom case was the Thomas Cooper case of 1831. Thomas Cooper served as president of South Carolina College where the legislature and people of South Carolina were involved in removing him as president because he “assailed the religious views of a large portion of the people and thus damaged the college […], interfered with the religious opinions of the students, taught them doctrines offensive to parents and guardians, and […] sneered at the observance of the Sabbath, at public prayers, and at certain religious sects” (Hofstadter and Walter P. Metzger 1955, 265-266).

The Cooper case resulted in South Carolina requiring a religious test for college presidents, but that was never the circumstance in Utah. Rather, Utah law expressly prohibited a religious test for teachers, professors, college presidents, and board members. Given the close relationship between academic freedom and civil and religious liberties, perhaps the Mormon tradition had an influence. One of the stated purposes of the LDS High Council that helped establish both the State of Deseret and the University of Utah was the “maintenance, promulgation and protection of civil & religious liberty in this nation and throughout the world […]” (Quinn 1980, 7). Furthermore, as noted in the previous chapter, the University’s first professor Cyrus Collins may not have been renewed after the first quarter in 1850 because he was a “stranger” who used unapproved textbooks, his termination was most likely a result of the Regency’s desire for efficient and rapid learning based strictly on science and philosophy and not solely for religious reasons.

A New President and Published Regulations

Kingsbury stayed on as President through the end of 1915 and utilized the newly established Nominating Committee to approve his recommendations for faculty continuing appointment before they went to the Regents. That summer the Alumni Association had continued to push the matter and adopted a resolution on June 1, 1915 calling “upon the President and a controlling majority of the Board of Regents to resign forthwith” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm).

President Kingsbury resigned on January 20, 1916. The Regents accepted his resignation, granted him a one-year, paid vacation, and established a special committee to find the next president. They selected Dr. John A. Widtsoe, but not without controversy—four Regents voted against the nomination saying they had not properly interviewed candidates nor consulted all the Regents.

One of the first items President Widtsoe brought before the Regents was the compilation of possible “University rules and regulations of government.” The University’s “Laws and Regulations” were quickly adopted at the March 15, 1916 Regents meeting and ordered to be bound and distributed. At the faculty’s urging, the rules were amended to include the President of the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) as an ex-officio member of the newly formed Administrative Council.

The rules more fully spelled out in a preamble who was in charge of the University. The University “belonged” to the people of Utah who controlled it through laws passed by the legislative assembly and via legislative appropriations. The 1916 Laws and Regulations placed the Board of Regents as final decision-approvers instead of initial policy makers. They also listed duties of university staff, the president, deans, faculty, committees, and councils and described the Administrative Council as the “direct medium of communication between the University Faculty and the Board of Regents […] to maintain a friendly understanding between the Faculty and the Board of Regents and thereby to secure more completely the rights of Faculty members and of the Regents” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm)

The Beginning of Tenure with Merit, Loyalty, Efficiency Codified

Most significantly, the newly published rules included a chapter called “Method of Appointments and Tenure of Office,” which applied to all University staff, not just teachers and professors. The terms specified that the Regents made all appointments upon the nomination of the President and were based on the merits of the individual “with respect to the special fitness […] for the work demanded in the position” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, microfilm). The terms ensured that the Regents would not remove employees without a hearing and clarified that employment was subject to law and the new University Regulations.

Probationary periods lasted three years and required satisfactory service to be considered a permanent employee, provided the job was still needed and there were funds to pay for the position. The new regulations also included descriptions of vacation time, leaves of absence, outside work, hours of work required, a salary schedule for professors, and an exclusion from the university for “teachers, students, or employees infected with pulmonary tuberculosis” (ibid.).

Special Rules for Professors

Unlike staff positions, nominations for professors originated with a committee rather than a direct nomination from the President to the Regents. The committee included the department chair, the university president, and, when applicable, the relevant school dean. When nominating the president of the University, the committee consisted of the Regents and three faculty members.

While the three-year probationary period applied to all University employees, the frequency of evaluations after receiving tenure differed for professors—appointments without review lasted two years instead of one.

The 1916 Regulations also focused on duties and privileges of all University staff. The primary duties of employees included “loyal and efficient service to the University, and therefore to the State and its people together with a law-abiding and moral mode of life…” (ibid.). Disloyalty, inefficiency, lawlessness, immorality, and failure to abide by University regulations served as causes for dismissal from the University, somewhat mirroring the terminology Regents used in deliberating on whether or not to renew Cyrus Collins’ appointment in 1851.

Academic Freedom and Tenure

Academic freedom is mentioned for the first time in the 1916 University Regulations with a brief statement in a dedicated section: “Academic freedom in the pursuit and teaching of knowledge shall be maintained in the University of Utah” (ibid). While Utah statute was silent on both tenure and academic freedom in 1907, 1917, and 1933, other states like Massachusetts and New Jersey had formal laws to assure tenure (Shannahan 1973). The District of Columbia established regulations for city schools and districts in 1906 and by 1925, California, Oregon, Montana, Illinois, New York, Maryland, and Colorado had tenure-related legislation.

In 1973, the Utah System of Higher Education established a state-wide tenure policy “to protect the academic freedom of faculty” and stipulated termination as “only for cause, bona fide program or unit discontinuance […], or bona fide financial exigency […], and as specified in institutional policies and rules” and is currently in effect (Utah System of Higher Education 1973, 2). In accord with this policy, academic freedom applies to both tenure-line and career-line faculty and extends to freedom in teaching, research, and public life. Reasons for dismissing a faculty member for cause include professional incompetence, serious misconduct, serious violations of board or institutional regulations, and “substantially impaired performance for medical reasons for which accommodations have not been successful” (ibid.).


[5] These changes were based on appointments made by Democratic Territorial Governors Arthur L. Thomas and Caleb West in the late 19th century. Between 1900 and 1920, more than half of the Regents had come from a non-Mormon background with over one-third serving as businessmen or bankers in the community (Pugsley 1984).