University Puts Off Action on Core-beliefs Policy

University Puts Off Action on Core-beliefs Policy

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Following 21/2 hours of debate, the University of Utah's Academic Senate again put off voting on a proposed policy that would allow students -- sometimes -- to skip course work that clashes with their core beliefs.

The policy is an outgrowth of last year's settlement of a lawsuit brought by former theater student Christina Axson-Flynn, who cited her religious beliefs for refusing to recite lines that included swearing.

"There is still thoughtful and articulate disagreement among us," education professor Andrew Gitlin said at Monday's meeting. "This is what democracy is all about. I suggest we take one more meeting, at the max(imum), to figure it out."

Many professors worry that the proposed policy appears to give students the ability to force professors to change their curricula.

However, English professor Kate Coles, chairwoman of the committee that drafted the proposal, said teachers could state on their syllabuses that they do not grant any accommodations in their courses.

If a student still requested one, the professor would be required to consider it but not necessarily grant it, she said.

The draft policy also outlines an appeal process.

Biology professor David Goldenberg said there were "two, well-organized" factions attacking his discipline: those who oppose evolution and those who support animal rights.

Both could prevent teaching biology in a manner that is widely accepted in the scientific community, he said.

"This policy opens the door to harassment," he warned. "Even if 99 percent of students are reasonable, it only takes a couple to create a problem."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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