Chapter One: Advent of the Faculty

The early history of the University sets the stage for what would soon become a theme: the battle over academic freedom and free speech, which is fought between the groups charged with running the University and the faculty hired to meet the goal of disseminating knowledge.

The Regency had to decide whether they would hire professors from the small number of well-educated men within their own ranks or venture outside the state to hire a “stranger” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, Box 7, Nov. 6 1850 meeting). Given the fact that the Mormons had already been forced to escape the angry mobs of strangers to their religious practices in both Illinois and Missouri, the question of whether to bring an outsider to their community was understandable. However, it is not clear whether the reference meant a non-Mormon or whether they simply meant someone who remained unwilling to submit to the authority of the Regents to set the educational agenda.

The Regency interviewed two candidates for the position who both appeared to be ‘strangers’ to the Utah territory. The first interview candidate was Cyrus Collins who was introduced by Regent George Albert Smith. Mr. Collins—sometimes also called Dr. Collins—was a native of Vermont and had graduated from Dartmouth in 1842 (Dartmouth College 1841). The second interview was held with a man who was only referred to as “Mr. Slater” and his origins are not known, but both men appeared to fit the description of ‘stranger’ or outsider given the debates reflected in the minutes about whether to hire either of them.

Both candidates were asked to address the question of the best system of education, school organization, and curriculum. In the minutes it appeared that Mr. Slater was not prepared to answer the question and deferred to Mr. Collins’ viewpoints. The minutes noted that Mr. Collins discussed “the system of education, the effects of bad teaching, and his manner of advancing scholars rapidly” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, Box 7, Nov. 5, 1850 meeting). This, along with the fact that the Regents believed that Collins had adequately expressed a willingness to be governed by the Regents, appeared to give Cyrus Collins the edge in the minds of most Regents.

Despite this, two Regents (William Phelps and Parley Pratt) expressed great reservations about Collins and about whether it was advisable to hire “strangers we know nothing about” (ibid., Nov. 6 1850 meeting). William Phelps felt that Utah should not be “beholden to the World for teachers” (ibid.) and that someone from the community—namely, Chancellor Orson Spencer—should serve as the first professor. The minutes do not reflect the number or names of the Regents who disagreed with this view because the surprising and forceful view in favor of hiring an outside teacher was voiced by Governor Young. He disagreed with Phelps and Pratt and said that he believed that “either of the persons named was capable of teaching the school” (ibid.). Governor Young scolded the Regents by telling them that their role was to “fit teachers out” for their minds and not for their ability to “preach the Gospel” and then Young went on to declare that any man who refused to hire a stranger would become “a stink in his nostrils” (ibid.). Brigham Young often used this biblical reference to the Book of Isaiah[3] when he thought it necessary to remind them that the empty superficial manifestations of piety, like the smoke, which emanated from burnt offerings, would fail to please God and thus merely stink in his nostrils (Turner 2012).

Whether Governor Young persuaded the Regency with his eloquence or his absolute power as both a secular and religious leader is unclear, but in the end they voted unanimously to employ Mr. Collins for the first quarter. The quarter started on November 11, 1850, but since a building was not yet ready classes were held in the home of John Pack on West Temple and 1st North. At the time, the school was open to men only and focused on teaching the sciences to potential district and ecclesiastical ward teachers. Tuition was $8 and, according to the Regents’ ledger of subscribers, i.e. students, approximately forty men enrolled including three Regents: William Phelps, Daniel Spencer, and Orson Spencer. The advertisement the Regents printed in the Deseret News described Mr. Collins as an affable instructor who was qualified to teach any of the sciences and they expressed their confidence in his ability to “give great satisfaction to his patrons” (Regency 1850).

Despite this confidence, Dr. Collins’ employment at the University of Deseret remained short, lasting only one quarter. According to the University’s 1851 ledger, the Regents paid him $250, which he then donated in the form of two stoves. As the Regents indicated in their advertisement, Collins appeared to be a qualified educator because after he left the University of Deseret he continued to pursue an educational career in California. Newspaper records indicated that Collins started the Stockton Female Seminary and was later elected superintendent of San Joaquin County Schools in 1861 (Stockton Daily Independent 1861) (Tinkham 1880).

Meeting minutes and later commentaries showed that the students and the Regents were not impressed with Mr. Collins. At the end of the first quarter, Regent Ezra Benson and newly selected Regent Wilford Woodruff, who had also enrolled in Collins’ classes, expressed concern over Dr. Collins’ ability to respect “the powers that be” and said that the professor had “neglected his duties” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, Box 7, Feb. 4 1851 meeting). Chancellor Orson Spencer, Regent Samuel Richards and Lt. Governor Heber Kimball reported that the students (all adult men) complained that Collins “did not take such books as the Scholars [students] introduced” and that all parties were displeased with his punctuality (ibid., Feb. 3, 1851 meeting). The minutes did not specifically reference any outright disputes over curriculum, but it was possible that the firing of the first professor may have also been the University’s first battle over academic freedom. It was also a battle quickly lost by the first professor as the Regents refused to renew his contract and he continued west to California.

Although the minutes of the Regents’ meetings did not list the textbooks which Dr. Collins used, Levi Edgar Young’s “The Founding of Utah” indicated that copies of Lindley Murray English Readers were available for purchase from the Livingston and Kinkead merchant supplies that were also located in the Pack home that first quarter (323). James T. Jakeman in “Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and their Mothers” also stated that the “old Murray series of readers were used as texts [in the first school] along with the Bible and copies of various other books” (9).

Lindley Murray English Readers included sections on poetry, prose, piety, virtue, and principles of good reading. The text also used pieces on gratitude, forgiveness, comforts of religion, omniscience and omnipresence of the deity, immortality of the soul, and the creation. Figure 4 shows a selected portion of the contents of an 1835 version of the reader. It was possible that the adult male students as well as the Regents were displeased with the selection of the Murray reader because it included non-Mormon theological concepts. Given Regent Carrington’s March 1850 assignment to write the Smithsonian for scientific implements, perhaps the Regents and students anticipated that a university education would focus solely on highly practical, non-religious subjects. Another possibility could be that the larger community preferred that a university education be delegated only to religious leaders despite the fact that Governor Young and most of the other Regents seemed willing to trust the education of early Utah residents to a ‘stranger.’

If it is accurate that the students and other early Utah residents were inclined to receive instruction only from religious leaders because only one of their men of God would know the boundaries of practical knowledge and permit sufficient space for Mormon theology to fill the vacuum, the Regents appeared to cater to this demand by firing Collins. Furthermore, the Regents changed the course of the University by limiting the next quarter’s curriculum to arithmetic, geography, grammar, and speech. They also appointed Chancellor Orson Spencer and Regent William Phelps as the professors. The community appeared to approve the change because the editor of the Deseret News chimed in by noting:

Chancellor Spencer and Regent Phelps are too well known in the community to need any encomiums from our pen, and if there are any ignorant of their capacity as teachers, we would recommend such to put themselves under their tuition….and our prayer to God is that the same celestial influence may ever be continued and diffused through all the schools in Deseret (Richards 1851).


Figure 4. Lindley Murray’s English Reader, selected contents, 1835 (Courtesy of Internet Archive)

Classes moved from John Pack’s home on West Temple to the Council House located on the southwest corner of South Temple and Main Street. By the third quarter, Regent Orson Pratt joined Orson Spencer and William Phelps as the University’s professors. Ledgers do not indicate any payments to them for their teaching. After the first quarter, tuition was reduced to $5 with only half required up front and the school was open to both men and women.

The regent-professors taught for the next three terms until the school closed in 1852 when Orson Spencer left the Utah territory for LDS missionary work in Prussia. The 1852-1853 legislative report also cited the following as reasons for closing the University: departure of three regents with no replacements, lack of funding to pay regents and professors, and no central building.

Regency meetings continued from 1854 to 1867 despite the closing of the University, but discussion of the University stopped. The meeting minutes indicated that their primary focus and motivation was to complete the mission that Governor Young had tasked them with early on to refine and print the new Deseret Alphabet to reform phonetics and aid in efficient and timely learning. Efforts to establish statehood, not to mention the Utah War of 1857-58, would also distract the Regents from their mission to create a university, especially since many of the Regents also held roles in territorial and church leadership.


As abruptly as the Regents’ discussion of the University ended in 1852, they began again in 1867 without any mention of why they rededicated themselves to the task of creating a university. When they reunited on the subject, the mission seemed to have shifted from the training of teachers to the formation of a commercial college (business school) to be run by David Calder. But by 1869 the Regents, all new except for Chancellor Daniel Wells (and all LDS), had rededicated themselves to the mission of a more traditional university devoted to classical courses of study.

For the first time, the Regents also delegated some of their administrative powers outside their insular circle when they voted in March of 1869 to hire John R. Park as the new University President. Dr. Park had moved to Utah in 1861 and was a later member of the LDS Quorum of the Seventy. He was born in Ohio and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1853 and the Bellevue Hospital Medical College in 1857. The Regents wanted Park to broaden the curriculum and grow the student body. They directed Park to include new courses in liberal arts with the creation of classes in foreign languages, literature, philosophy and history which were to be taught alongside the “normal course of study” for the training of common school teachers (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, Box 7, Mar. 10 1869 meeting). According to Park’s journal, a spring term was held starting March 8, 1869 in the Council House with eighty-four enrolled students and him serving as Principal/President (Park 1869).

It remained unclear what motivated the Regents to broaden the course of study, delegate administrative powers, and approve the funding for the hiring of multiple ‘strangers’ to serve as early professors. The territory was able to add new sources of revenue when in 1867 Congress agreed to allow the Territorial Assembly to sell lands for the purpose of funding the University and public education (Moffitt 1946). By 1875, the University also had competition with a certain school from down south. Brigham Young, stripped of his authority as territorial governor in 1858, but still entrenched as the prophet and leader of the church, privately purchased the Timpanogos Branch of the commercial school established there in 1870. He renamed the school the Brigham Young Academy and it became the early precursor to Brigham Young University, the private higher educational institution which is still owned and operated by the LDS Church (ibid.,185).

University Administration via the University President

The minutes distinctly indicated that the Regents expected President Park to oversee growth of the University of Utah. They charged him not only with the task of broadening the curriculum but finding a way to pay for the costs by directing him to print a catalog, advertise tuition rates, and procure donations. The University’s operations may have been a little more robust than a mere commercial college because Park’s August 1869 catalog listed the following class offerings: natural history, math, chemistry, metallurgy, astronomy, moral science, ancient & modern languages, literature, drawing, penmanship, music, phonography, telegraphy, and commerce. It also listed a total of 223 students (120 men and 103 women) and four courses of study/majors: classical, normal, commercial, and preparatory. Classical was the most expensive at $20 per term, preparatory the cheapest at $8 per term and normal and commercial in the middle at $15 per term.

The catalog listed the names of the faculty and gave them the title of either professor or instructor. It listed six professors: John Park, Orson Pratt (former Regent and Chancellor), Bernhard Bergman, William Riess, Louis Moench, Harmal Pratt and four instructors: W. D. Johnson, Joseph Rawlins, Volney King, M. H. Hardy.[4] While the catalog distinguished between professor and instructor, the Regents had not yet codified rules for ranks or promotions and at that time they still appeared to have been heavily involved in the hiring process. However, at the urging of the new president, they sought to address this during their March 1871 meeting by appointing a committee of three to draft “rules prescribing the duties and powers of the Professors of the D.U. [Deseret University]” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, Box 7, typescript minutes, 26) but it would take nearly twenty years for a full set of faculty bylaws to surface.

When the Regents voted to retain Dr. Park in 1872 as both president and professor of advanced subjects, he requested a clearer definition of his role in relation to the Regents and of the University’s future. In response, Chancellor Daniel Wells said he wanted Park to “get all the pupils he could and grade them and hire teachers as they might be needed” (ibid., 28). This was the first time the Regents made a specific definition of the role of University President. Park requested that the Regents expand the University administration through the creation of committees whose members, though appointed and governed by the Regents, would take over other administrative powers previously held by the Regents: University finance, instruction and textbooks, buildings and supplies, teachers and salaries, and examination.

The Faculty as a Unified Professional Body

As a way of uniting the professors and to share in the general management of the institution, Dr. Park organized half of the professors into a faculty in March 1885. He selected those “with knowledge, experience, and special lines of duty” naming the following, including himself: Joseph B. Toronto, Joseph T. Kingsbury, Orson Howard, John H. Paul, and Henry C. White (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, Box 7, Mar 28 1885 meeting). This group represented six of the twelve faculty members.

Dr. Park also organized regular faculty meetings. The first items discussed at faculty meetings included courses of instruction, unity in work, economy of time, and the individual character of students. They met every two weeks and appointed the museum curator (Orson Howard), the librarian (Joseph Toronto), the secretary of the faculty (J. H. Paul), and the registrar (Joseph Toronto). The faculty considered petitions from students, discussed new courses of study, new classes to add to existing courses of study, textbooks, graduation, what time classes started, and what constituted tardiness.

The faculty established their own committees as well—one to create a motto and emblem, one on courses of study, one for the library, one for graduation, and a committee on publication, which created a subscription paper called “The Lantern,” later turning into The Utah Chronicle. In essence, the professors oversaw day-to-day operations of the school and at times it seemed their efforts closely mirrored, even duplicated that of the Regents—such as the committees on instruction, the library, and a motto/emblem. According to the annual catalogs from 1885 to 1894, “the immediate government and discipline of the school [rested] with the faculty” (University of Deseret 1883-1894). This, perhaps, led to parallel efforts and a desire on the part of the Regents to meet directly with faculty.

Based on meeting minutes, the Regents rarely met with faculty, but they expressed interest in the summer of 1887 “to investigate if any differences [existed] detrimental to the interest of the University, and to take such steps in the matter as they may deem necessary for the welfare of the students, and for the character and reputation of the University” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, Box 7, July 9 1887 meeting). Even though there are no records of when this meeting happened or how discussions went, it indicated that the University and the role of the faculty was growing and changing. At the same time, the Regents continued to build on and clarify the role of the president by making Dr. Park the first department chair in 1888. The department was simply called Instruction. His duties included supervising all professors, teachers, and staff and “to carry out the express instructions of the Board” (ibid., Jan. 5 1888 meeting).

The Regents elected Dr. Park as President of the Faculty in 1890 making him an honorary member of the Board, Secretary of the Board, President of the University, President of the Faculty, Department Chair of Instruction, and Professor. This represented the clarification that Park had asked for a decade earlier—a distinction between his role and the Regents. This was also the first time the Regents separated the role of University President and President of the Faculty:

The president of the Faculty shall have the general direction and supervision of instruction, and of the grounds and buildings. He shall select and recommend for employment teachers, a librarian, curator, custodian, registrar, janitor, and such instructors and employees as may be necessary and prescribe the duties of each within the limits of his employment, and make rules and regulations for the conduct, deportment, and discipline of pupils; and, when requested, consult with the Board or any of its committees in regard to the business and offices of the University (ibid).

The faculty developed their own bylaws around the same time on October 23, 1890 (University of Utah Faculty 1885-1966, Box 2, 30). By 1892, faculty meetings were utilized to review student applications and determine admissions. They also developed rules for government and discipline of students (ibid., 120). Rules regarding voting rights at faculty meetings emerged in 1893 when Acting President Joseph T. Kingsbury established ranks: professor, assistant professor, and teacher. Assistant professors and teachers could attend faculty meetings and participate in discussions, but they did not have a vote.

In the course of drafting 1890 bylaws, the Regents discontinued their committee on instruction and textbooks opening the door for shared governance with the faculty. The Regents also discontinued the Visiting Committee used to occasionally monitor professors and instead created the Advisory Committee with a clarification that the committee “was not intended to restrict the power or authority of the President of the University, but to assist and strengthen him in that position” (University of Utah Board of Regents 1850-1969, Box 7, Apr 5 1890 meeting).

Helping to organize a university is no easy task and Dr. Park’s contributions to establishing the administrative structure of the University of Utah cannot be understated. Without his influence, the University would have made slower progress toward a rigorous curriculum and a well-functioning institution. Nor would it have the library it does since Dr. Park bequeathed his entire collection to the University upon his death in 1900.

From the time Park defined the faculty in 1885 and Acting President Kingsbury established ranks in 1893, various terms and categories have been used to describe the faculty in University history: The Faculty, Officers of Instruction, Officers of the University, Regular Faculty, Teaching Faculty, Research Faculty, Library Faculty, Adjunct, Auxiliary, Visiting, Clinical, Tenure Track, Lecturer. There have been groups included in the faculty–teachers at the University Normal School, administrators with faculty rank, researchers at the Engineering Experiment Station, and athletic coaches.

Presently, the University of Utah utilizes the following categories to define and organize the faculty: Tenure-Line Faculty, Career-Line Faculty, and Adjunct, Visiting, and Emeritus Faculty. The membership of the Academic Senate today reflects these categories by drawing from both the tenure-line and career-line categories. While definitions and terminology have changed, a set of core rights and responsibilities has remained. These are best described in the current Faculty Code of Conduct (U of U Policy 6-316):

Academic Rights of Faculty Members

    1. Faculty members have the legal rights and privileges of citizens. They may not be subject to punishment or reprisal for the exercise of such rights and privileges.
    2. Faculty members have the right to academic freedom and the right to examine and communicate ideas by any lawful means even should such activities generate hostility or pressures against the faculty member or the university. Their constitutionally protected exercise of freedom of association, assembly, and expression, including participation in political activities, does not constitute a violation of duties to the university, to their profession, or to students.
    3. Where their rank and status are appropriate, faculty members have the right to vote on faculty appointments, promotions, and tenure, and to vote for representatives to college and university legislative bodies.
    4. Faculty members have a right to due process and peer judgment in any disciplinary matter involving the possibility of substantial sanctions. This includes a right to be heard, a right to decision and review by impartial persons or bodies, and a right to adequate notice. The Consolidated Hearing Committee is the appropriate body to hear charges of a violation of this Code of Faculty Responsibility, unless some other hearing body is specified in this Code.
    5. Faculty members have a right to support and assistance from the university in maintaining a climate suitable for scholarship, research, and effective teaching and learning. Faculty members are entitled to an academic environment free from violence or systematic disruption, and to a teaching environment adequately equipped for meeting the teaching mission of the university.
    6. Consistent with state law, faculty members have a right to university support in professional activities inside and outside the classroom, both on and off campus, both in defense of academic freedom, and in defense of any resulting litigation, including funds for legal assistance. Professional activities are those described or required by each Department’s RPT and/or financial compensation criteria.
    7. Faculty members have a right to assistance from the university in improving their skills and developing their talents as teachers and scholars.
    8. Faculty members have a right to fair and equitable financial remuneration commensurate with their rank, duties, performance, and professional stature.
    9. The above list of rights is not exhaustive. Other rights, such as the faculty’s right to a meaningful role in the governance of the university, including primary responsibility for course content and materials, degree requirements, and curriculum, are found in the Policies and Procedures Manual.

Ethical Canons

    1. The Basic Aspiration. A faculty member is primarily a teacher and a scholar. Above all the single overriding canon is: to strive for excellence and to inspire excellence in others.
    2. Duties to Students. University teaching should reflect consideration for the dignity of students and their rights as persons. Students as well as faculty are entitled to academic freedom and autonomy in their intellectual pursuits and development. Teachers must therefore treat students with courtesy and respect. They must not require students to accept their personal beliefs or opinions and must strive in the classroom to maintain a climate conducive to thinking and learning. They must not misuse their position, authority, or relationship with students.
    3. Professional Obligations. Faculty members should seek knowledge and value the pursuit of truth. They should strive to contribute to their discipline, and should support and encourage the efforts of others. Faculty members should maintain and improve their effectiveness as teachers and scholars.
    4. Obligations to the University. A faculty member’s position is one of trust and responsibility to the university and the students, faculty, and staff who constitute the university community. Faculty members should merit such trust and responsibility by devoted service. They should strive to maintain and improve the academic quality of their department, college, and the university. When called upon to serve in administrative posts or on committees, faculty members should strive to achieve the legitimate purposes of the university with due consideration for the interests of other persons involved.


[3] A special thanks to U of U philosophy professor Ben Crowe for first pointing out the Book of Isaiah connection.

[4] There is a mismatch between the Regents’ minutes and the University’s 1869-1870 catalog. While the minutes reflected that the Regents only offered contracts to a total of three professors—John Park, Joseph Toronto and Joseph Kingsbury—the catalog listed five professors plus nine instructors. This could possibly illustrate an increased independent role of the University President: hiring professors on a short-term, as needed basis.