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Utah Professor Says He Lost His Job Over Opposition to Naming Family Center for Anti-Gay Mormon Leader


A Weber State University professor suspects that the school's decision to not rehire him was because he spoke out against the naming of a new family center after Mormon apostle Boyd K. Packer (above).

LisonbeeEarlier this month, the Salt Lake Tribune reported:

Jared Lisonbee, an assistant professor of child and family studies, said he got a letter "out of the blue" last week stating his employment would be terminated at the end of the 2013-14 academic year. He spoke against the decision at a faculty meeting in late 2012.

Lisonbee had spoken up at a faculty meeting:

"I said, ‘I really don’t think this is a good idea. I don’t think it represents the diversity of families the center will be serving,’" he said.

He also outlined his concerns in an email to Jack Rasmussen, dean of the College of Education, who acknowledged the issue to Lisonbee but kept the name.

Inside Higher Ed follows up:

Following his public objections to the name, including an e-mail to Jack Rasmussen, dean of the Jerry Vickie Moyes College of Education, Lisonbee said Paul Schvaneveldt, department chair, singled him out for criticism. During his third-year review, in February, Lisonbee said Schvaneveldt responded to the assistant professor’s comments about the at-times pervasive Mormon influence on the culture of the university and department by saying, “Well, you know, Weber State isn’t a good match for everyone.” And at the college’s graduation ceremony, Lisonbee said, Schvaneveldt accused him of leaving early when he had temporarily stepped to the side of the stage to greet students.

Lisonbee said a letter from his wife published in a local paper after the formal naming of the center in May also may have harmed his chances at Weber.

“Naming a public university’s program to support families after Packer is a slap in the face for many in the community, given positions advocated by Packer,” Shairylann Lisonbee wrote in her letter, which inspired an online petition that’s gained more than 2,600 signatures against the naming of the center. The Utah Stonewall Democrats, a group supportive of gay rights, also protested the naming of the center following the letter’s publication.

“While I cannot be certain, with the letter informing me of the decision not to renew my contract coming so close in the wake of the negative publicity associated with the letter to the editor, I suspect that the letter to the editor did contribute to the decision,” said Lisonbee.

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  1. Ok, so why did Lisonbee think the center shouldn't be named after Boyd Packer? Who is this guy?

    Posted by: Tom S. | Jul 15, 2013 10:53:42 AM

  2. Boyd Packer was a classic Mormon ass-hat and entrenched, self-righteous homophobe. Sure a Family Center in a Mormon school should be named after him! Serves 'em right.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jul 15, 2013 10:57:11 AM

  3. Weber State isn't a Mormon school; it's a public university

    Posted by: Grover Underwood | Jul 15, 2013 11:14:19 AM

  4. @UFF:
    The problem is, Weber State ISN'T a Mormon school; it's a STATE school, which is supposed to serve all the residents of the state, including the percentage of Utah's residents who aren't Mormon.

    Oh, and I'm chair of the Utah Stonewall Democrats, and I'm mad as hell that Weber State has retaliated against someone for pointing out the fact that the university has a mandate to serve ALL Utahns.

    Posted by: Daddy Todd | Jul 15, 2013 11:15:30 AM

  5. Grover:
    Though it is a public university, it is run like a Mormon school. It is common practice for an university to name a building after a person chosen by a big donor. But that should not be an excuse for firing people who speak out against it.

    Posted by: simon | Jul 15, 2013 11:20:57 AM

  6. "Third Year" review is a common practice for new professors...and many don't get rehired for all kinds of reasons. Not playing well with others is a common one.

    Posted by: QJ201 | Jul 15, 2013 12:30:30 PM

  7. Same old Mormon crap. Yes Weber State is not officially Mormon, but there are probably so many Mormons on its staff, it doesn't matter. They follow the party line, and it's too bad.

    Posted by: Joseph | Jul 15, 2013 12:48:31 PM

  8. Utah is a Mormon theocracy. The Mor(m)on control every aspect of public life there.

    Posted by: Steve | Jul 15, 2013 12:53:03 PM

  9. usually tenure-track professors only lose their job if they do not earn tenure/promotion (most places after 6 years)... a third review, while very common, only lets the candidate know how they are doing... I've never heard of anyone being fired after a review (even if the review was negative)... I guess it must be part of his contract... does Utah have a union for university professors?

    Posted by: V-8 | Jul 15, 2013 1:30:35 PM

  10. How very disingenuous of the professor. Hel-LO, you're expecting not to be fired by the people who shoveled money into California to pass Prop-8? Who shame and excommunicate anyone they even remotely suspect of being gay? All out of the kindness of their hearts, of course. Get a grip, girlfriend, those people are scared spitless of gay.

    Posted by: Onnyjay | Jul 15, 2013 4:17:06 PM

  11. Paul Schvaneveldt isn't fit for public office. He takes taxpayer money from all families, even those he neglects. Paul Schvaneveldt should be ashamed of himself.

    Posted by: Jay | Jul 15, 2013 6:52:22 PM

  12. I don't believe that Mormons are the majority of the population in Utah anymore, but they do hold nearly all of the elected offices in the state, that is why Utah is still run like a branch of the Mormon church.

    Posted by: jsb | Jul 15, 2013 10:00:59 PM

  13. Sadly, there can be any number of reasons why a faculty member doesn't have his/her contract renewed, and at least Prof. Lisonbee got over a year's notice. Also, though there certainly are a great many exceptions, very often the naming of a center or building or whatever is associated with the transfer of cash.

    Posted by: EdA | Jul 15, 2013 10:28:27 PM

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