Dr. Cyrus Collins, 1850
The concept of academic freedom did not exist in 1850 when Cyrus Collins, the first professor at the University of Utah was hired and then promptly fired. Mr. Collins came from outside the region and outside the religion and was hired by Governor Brigham Young because of his teaching philosophy and because he aced the interview (the other candidate was not prepared). Only a handful of the twelve Regents agreed with the decision to hire him. He was a graduate of Dartmouth College and knew one of the Regents, but some didn’t like that he was an outsider. This became an on-going debate between Territorial Governor Young and the majority of the school’s regents. Because there was no school building yet, Cyrus Collins taught in the John Pack home and then in a church-owned building called the Council House. The building was drafty so he donated his pay to purchase stoves for the building. But after teaching only two sessions at the fledgling University of Deseret--the precursor to the University of Utah—Cyrus Collins continued on to California to start a school for girls.
Collins was well-liked at first as he was included in the Parent School advertisment that ran in the Deseret News November 1850 to January 1851 [see advertisment at left].
But as the question arose about renewing his pay and contract, the majority of the Regents who did not agree with Governor Young’s decision to bring in an outsider, complained that he did not respect the powers that be and lacked punctuality. Records do not indicate what “the powers that be” wanted from his teaching, but one possibility is the book that he taught from, the Lindley Murray's English Reader [title page at right]. It included no math, no science; only literature on various religious and moral topics. Or it could simply be that the teacher’s outsider status was not what the powers that be wanted [see Administration's deliberation from 1851 below].