Prof. Mark Davies’ ouster at BYU

Mark Davies was a professor of linguistics at BYU who created tools for analyzing large collections of text, a method known as corpus analysis. He ran a website,, where these text collections were available for anyone to use.

The site, now at, and Dr. Davies’ website, describe a process of administrator mismanagement that led to Dr. Davies’ departure in 2020, along with the corpus project and website. See here and here.

I did my B.A. in linguistics at BYU, and remember watching with interest as the the corpus page developed. It’s disheartening to see that such a valuable academic resource doesn’t have a permanent home at BYU.

Removing the name-naming text and links, I will quote thus:

This permanent loss of funding support was a punitive action … after Mark informed the university of serious “financial malfeasance” by the College of Humanities regarding income from the English corpora. Subsequently, administrators at BYU refused to help resolve the issue, which is part of a culture of ignoring whistleblowers and “closing ranks” and promoting “yes men” at BYU.

It is not overly surprising that BYU would pay such little attention to academic productivity, since the primary mission of BYU is religious in nature, rather than academic. In certain respects, BYU is more like a religious seminary than an actual university. As a result, some people at BYU don’t really understand how to support and protect projects that have real academic importance and significance.

Of course, there are two (or more) sides to every story. Part of why I unlink the specific callouts is that I have no way of knowing beyond Dr. Davies’ own words.

But the critique leveled against the university rings true for me. I’ve long since come to feel that BYU did me a disservice by shielding me from critical information about the LDS church, which was not at that time covered in any of the many religion classes I took, or any other class for that matter. It seems unconscionable to have so many professors of such high qualification, and none mention any potential issues with the church they represent, except obliquely, after hours.

“The glory of God is intelligence; or, in other words, light and truth” – it was all over campus. But the glaring exception is casting light on, and discussing the truth about, the church itself.

EDIT: The word “ousted” may be too strong – Dr. Davies chose to retire, but the withdrawal of funding was strong pressure on him to do so.

NOTE: I originally posted this on Reddit, check the discussion there, including a response by Dr. Davies, also seen on his blog.



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