Citizenship, CFS, and BYU’s Soul

John S. Tanner, Notes from an Ameteur: A Disciple’s Life in the Academy (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 68–70.

I have sometimes wondered why BYU uses two unusual rubrics in rank and status. What other institutions call tenure, we call continuing faculty status (CFS). What others call service, we speak of as citizenship. For me, the distinction between tenure and CFS has never felt intuitive. I still do not fully understand it. Not so the distinction between service and citizenship.

Citizenship feels more encompassing to me than service. This connotation is deliberate. Those who introduced the rubric intended university citizenship to cover more than committee work and professional activity. They intended it to address our overall commitment to BYU’s mission. They intended it to speak to our institutional soul: “A faculty member is asked and permitted to become in truth a part of the university’s very soul. That kind of integrity and integration is the responsibility and the privilege of university citizenship” (Memo 11 to Faculty, 1987).

Those who wrote this understood that our relationship to BYU as faculty cannot be reduced to “some set of tasks to be performed or some set amount of time to be served.” It exceeds what Carlyle called a cash nexus, whereby an employee and employer are connected primarily through a paycheck. We are university citizens even when not serving on a committee, even when off campus and engaged in non-university tasks. Good citizens “are examples in the whole of their lives of the best characteristics of the University.”

As I reread the 1987 memo from President Holland and Jae Ballif, I was struck by the scope of university citizenship ever since it was introduced. For example:

Good citizens not only attend “commencements, convocations, and devotional and forum assemblies.” We “are responsible to be examples of . . . life-long general education even as we pursue scholarship in our disciplines” and “to be engaged as students of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Good citizens “provide dignified and good examples for every student they meet.” This includes exemplary professional integrity, decorum, and dress: “If we approach our disciplines (or our grooming) in an unkempt and sloppy manner, then our students may be learning carelessness and disorder from us.”

Good citizens exhibit civility: “A faculty member who impedes the work of a department by disruptive behavior is not a good citizen. . . . There should be and will be strongly expressed positions, but these should be expressed and responded to as would be expected from cultured and educated people.”

Likewise, good citizens do not engage in “incessant jousting or self-indulgent theatrics. One whose teaching and scholarship are driven by any such selfish purposes similarly fails as a citizen.” “Citizenship requires active participation for the good of the university community.”

Above all, good citizens “live lives reflecting love of God and a commitment to righteousness. In addition, those of us who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must live lives of loyalty to the Restored Gospel; . . . our colleagues must feel our love and support for the Church that gives us our unique BYU opportunity.”

It is precisely because university citizenship includes such values as love of God, personal righteousness, and loyalty to the Church, I suppose, that BYU eschews the term tenure, which typically disallows any such considerations, in favor of continuing faculty status. Citizenship, as we define it, makes a unique rubric like CFS necessary.

Implicit in university citizenship at BYU are loyalties and allegiances that flow from our being: as Paul says, “fellow-citizens with the saints” (Ephesians 2:12). According to Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “The orthodox Latter-day Saint scholar should remember that his citizenship is in the Kingdom and that his professional passport takes him abroad into his specialty. It is not the other way around.”

No wonder that university citizenship has always been listed first among the three areas of faculty responsibility. It embraces the most distinctive aspects of BYU’s mission. It speaks to our institutional soul.