1970s

In the same year as the move to new quarters, the department proposed a doctoral program in English, which gained approval in 1969. Nine students entered the program in 1971. Unfortunately, in the 1970s a nationwide surplus of doctorates in English developed, and graduates from established doctoral programs across the nation had difficulty finding positions, resulting in some of these programs being cut back. Because of the low number of students applying to the program and other concerns, the department found it necessary to reevaluate the doctorate.  Simultaneously, the university was pressuring departments to cut small, expensive programs. Thus, after careful study the department chose to furlough the program for three years; however, the doctoral program was never revived. Between 1975 and 1981 the department granted doctoral degrees to the six candidates: Agda Harlow, Greg Larkin, Graham St. John Scott, Clifton Holt Jolley, Gloria Cronin, and Hsiao-min (Sherman) Han.

Because university enrollment had been temporarily frozen at twenty-five thousand, department growth had finally leveled off. However, department policies and programs continued to change in an effort to offer students an ever improving education. Previously, all English education students (students planning to certify as high school English teachers) came under the direction of the College of Education. The English Department changed this so that these students all became English majors. Of the 191 majors who graduated in 1971, two-thirds were certified to teach.

Another significant change occurred in freshman composition. Following a national trend, the department moved from the old two-semester requirement to a vertical program in which students took one course as freshmen and the second as sophomores or juniors. Courses were designed in roughly four categories:  English 251, Fundamentals of Literature, for English, humanities, and arts majors; English 316, Technical Writing, for engineers and students in the sciences; English 215, Factual and Report Writing, for students in the social sciences and business; and English 212, a more advanced freshman English course. Under the new program, students were still required to take six hours of composition, but their major departments determined the second-semester course. This new program improved considerably the English Department’s relationship with other departments.

On 1 August 1971, Ernest L. Wilkinson retired, and Dallin H. Oaks became president of BYU. One of Oaks’s early decisions was to turn most responsibility for promotions and salaries over to departments.  At this time, the early seventies, English faculty who had been hired in the Twenties and Thirties and who helped shape the department and hold it together in those difficult financial years were beginning to retire. Retiring were Karl E. Young, Irene Osmond Spears, Nan Osmond Grass, and Jeannette Morrell. Harold S. Madsen retired early because of ill health.

Because the size of the department (easily the largest on campus and larger than some colleges) made creative leadership difficult, Dean Clark in the early Seventies formed a committee to study the possibility of sub-departments, each with its own chair. Clark felt that smaller units might create more harmony and stimulate more intellectual exchange among faculty. However, opinions were not unanimous. Some faculty felt that such divisions would fragment the department and build competition for resources.  Thus, the final decision to move to six sub-departments or sections was not an easy one, nor one universally approved in the department.

Marshall R. Craig

In 1972, Marshall R. Craig, a professor famous for his use of the Socratic method in his teaching, replaced Dale West as chair, and, following committee recommendations, formed six sub-departments, including English Literature, American Literature, English Language, English Composition, Teacher Training, and General Literature. After two years some faculty felt the new approach worked, some thought department unity had been compromised, and some decided administrative overhead which included the cost of a full-time administrative assistant, appropriately named William O. Shakespeare, to assist the chair, was too costly. Even so, there was general approval of the department’s new organization, and the sub-department arrangement continued.

The English Department at this time had three major responsibilities: the vast freshman English program (five thousand students); the General Education literature classes; and the major undergraduate and graduate classes. The typical teaching load had dropped from up to sixteen hours in the 1950s to twelve, except for reductions for extensive publications or administrative responsibilities. Although freshman English and composition classes had been previously taught by full-time faculty, these classes were being taught more and more by graduate students and part-time faculty, full-time faculty shifting to teaching literature and language courses, many of them specialized with smaller enrollments.  Meanwhile, the number of English majors declined for several reasons. The university general education program dropped literature as a specific requirement, while at the same time Humanities 101 courses grew in popularity, resulting in a loss of students in general education literature courses. Another cause was a decline in the need for English teachers. Finally, changing freshman English to a vertical program resulted in a heavy loss of students in second-semester composition. Because of this decrease in English major enrollment, as well as pressure from the university administration to justify small classes, and a growing emphasis on publication, tensions developed in the department that would take the next few years to work out.

Despite such tension and fluctuations in student enrollment in literature and composition courses, the department continued to hire new faculty to replace those retiring. Those shifting to emeritus status were Orea B. Tanner, Ruth M. McKay, Celestia J. Taylor, and the venerable P. A. Christensen. New hires were Arthur Henry King, Marilyn Arnold, Edward A. Geary, and Melvin J. Luthy.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, another of Dean Clark’s concerns was to foster a more positive image at BYU of the College of Humanities, particularly the English Department. To quote from notes taken during a college meeting, “We are thought of as being too sarcastic, cynical, and basically negative, ready to sacrifice principles for the sake of a clever comment, so delighted with the pleasure of language that we are more willing to display these than we are to express sincere faith, testimony, and convictions of a spiritual nature.”  Clark hastened to add that some faculty carried heavy responsibilities as bishops, stake presidents, and mission presidents, and many were deeply devoted to the gospel, but that the department needed to work harder for a more positive image with students and faculty in other colleges.

Richard H. Cracroft

In 1975, after two-and-half years as chair, Marshall Craig was released to become the chair of the new BYU Council on Student Writing, and Richard H. Cracroft, a young, dynamic thirty-eight-year-old and a relatively new faculty member, became chair.

Robert K. Thomas, academic vice president, immediately called Cracroft in and told him to shift the faculty more toward scholarly research and publication and to affiliate more with national and international scholarly organizations in literature and linguistics. Clark had already been moving in this direction by suggesting, without great success, that faculty adopt either a teaching or a scholarship track. When Cracroft later became dean of the college, he received a similar charge from Jeffrey R. Holland, then president of the University. Some older faculty who had been hired exclusively to teach felt this new requirement for scholarship suggested a lack of appreciation for their lives of dedicated service. The change was, however, a fact of academic life as the department moved to become stronger, more professional, and to enhance its scholarly reputation.

Cracroft organized a Faculty Advisory Council (FAC) comprised of the chairs of other committees (promotion, writing, curriculum, American literature, British literature, etc.) to help run the department. Other changes during his administration included writing examinations for some courses to make them challengeable (a program that later failed because of lack of student interest); revising major requirements (a department wheel that needed to be reinvented every five or six years); and establishing “An evening with . . .” lecture series through which prominent Latter-day Saints, often General Authorities, came to speak to English majors and minors.

At this time the department also set up, under the direction of Darwin Hayes, a reading/writing tutorial program called TICCIT to help students improve skills using computer software. This was part of an effort under Soren Cox to improve department general education courses and TICCIT later became part of the university Learning Resource Center managed by Kristine Hansen and housed in the Lee Library. The Center ran a tutorial program for all students needing help in developing various learning skills. Dorothy Hansen administered the reading skills development, and Don Norton oversaw writing skills tutoring. When the LRC moved out of the library, the reading and writing component remained and became the Reading/Writing Center with William Shakespeare as director. At this time, students were not required to take freshman English but to pass university reading and writing evaluations. To prepare for these evaluations, students typically took preparatory courses as needed. In addition to offering individual tutoring to all students, the Center also helped with these courses.

Following the lead of the college language departments in their study abroad programs, the English Department, through the Kennedy Center, in 1977 began its London Study Abroad Program. The goal of the program was to give students experience studying British literature in on-site courses. The program eventually broadened to include creative writing and courses in other disciplines. Today, students and faculty are housed in the BYU London Center. Under the direction of Eugene England the department started a Theatre Study Abroad program in which students studied the history of British theatre and attended plays in London and elsewhere in England. Later still, John Bennion began an England and Literature program in which students toured and walked sites important in the development of British literature. All three programs have proven to be popular with students.

1976 English Department Faculty. Left rear to right front: Darwin L. Hayes, William Shakespeare, George C. Bennion, John A. Thomas, Brian S. Best, Frank K. Horton, Gordon K. Thomas, Bruce W. Jorgensen, Samuel C. Monson, Richard C. Poulson, Neal E. Lambert, Bruce B. Clark, Dale H. West, Glen McKellar, Don E. Norton, Marion B. Brady, Roy K. Bird, Edward A. Geary, David Evans, Marden J. Clark, Richard H. Cracroft, Ray S. Williams, Melvin J. Luthy, Marshall R. Craig, Clinton F. Larson, Woodruff C. Thompson, Ted E. Ridenhour, Ross S. Esplin, Verdon W. Ballantyne, John E. McKendrick, Charles D. Tate, Robyn (secretary), Dorothy M. Hansen, Mae Blanch, Glena D. Wood, Marjorie Wight, Lorna R. Nielsen, Elizabeth Wahlquist, Susan E. Ream, Elouise M. Bell, Edward L. Hart, Richard G. Ellsworth, Byron W. Gassman, John S. Harris, John B. Harris, Douglas H. Thayer, Marion K. Smith, William A. Wilson, Briant S. Jacobs, Steven C. Walker, Larry G. Best

On the more practical side, in order to foster department camaraderie, Cracroft furnished as a faculty commons a room used for eating lunches (President Wilkinson would not let it be called a lounge because he felt that implied loafing), putting in a refrigerator and water heater for hot drinks to make sack lunches more electric typewriters with white-out correction ribbons, a vast improvement over older

manual machines. Finally, the department installed a “state-of-the-art” copying machine, which unfortunately broke down weekly, so that hand-staining ditto masters were still needed to produce class materials.

As can be expected with a large faculty, things did not always run smoothly in the department.  Although nearly all the faculty were faithful members of the Church, three were terminated for standards violations. In addition, because of polarization between religiously liberal and more conservative faculty, some divisiveness developed in the department at this time ultimately resulting, amid considerable upheaval, with some faculty members leaving to teach at other universities. On the lighter side, minor problems included whether women faculty had exclusive rights to the women’s restroom—that is, without sharing with women students–and whether one faculty member might have a better grade of carpet in his office than others had.

As the full-time department faculty became more involved in teaching upper-division and graduate classes and doing research, the department began to hire more adjunct faculty. Adjuncts typically taught writing courses or classes with heavy writing emphasis, including freshman English, 218 Creative Writing, 251 Fundamentals of Literature (a prerequisite course for the major),  312 Critical and Interpretive Writing, 314  Writing About Literature, 315  Expository and Factual Writing, and 316 Technical Writing. These instructors, some of them faculty wives, typically held M.A.s in English, were highly skilled teachers who made a significant and much appreciated contribution to the department.

In the late Seventies and early Eighties the English Department began a program with X’ian Foreign Language Institute in the People’s Republic of China to bring some of its English faculty to the department. The program proved only partially successful, however. While several of the Chinese faculty were brilliant and taught well,  others were not as capable, and eventually the program was discontinued. However, through the Kennedy Center many BYU faculty, including those from the College of Humanities, continued to teach at X’ian and other Chinese universities.  The department also at this time started a faculty exchange program with BYU-Hawaii, then called Church College of Hawaii, which proved popular continued for several decades.

Up to this point, the English Department, like other departments across campus, handled all advisement of majors and minors, with faculty members assigned to advise a given group of students. Students were periodically asked to meet with their advisors to fill out necessary forms to ensure they were meeting department and general education requirements leading to timely graduation. As all students did not come in and there was no way to require them to do so, the system proved less than effective. Also, the whole process became increasingly complex in terms of general education requirements, career advisement, and graduation clearance.  Beginning in the early Seventies, university administration launched a new program of advisement by creating college advisement centers where students could seek help. Since the colleges received no additional funding, early advisement centers typically amounted to a secretary being designated as a college advisor. However, over time the College of Humanities Advisement Center developed until it now has its own offices, a director, a secretary, and several advisors, though English faculty are still assigned to help students develop academic programs that best meet their needs.

Anne White, administrative assistant, helped to keep the department functioning smoothly during the Eighties and Nineties. Starting in 1979, she served as a student secretary, then as secretary, and finally as administrative assistant to the chair. Known for her sense of humor, irony, intelligence, hard work, and problem-solving ability, she was a popular and effective department administrator. Resigning to marry Dr. Anthony Van Soest, Anne White served the department well for a total of twenty-two years.

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