Scores of Utah Valley University professors say the school's president has undermined students and the university's mission by signing on to a "friend of the court" brief opposing gay marriage.
UVU President Matthew Holland was one of "100 scholars" who signed an amicus brief last month written by attorney Gene Schaerr.
"It showed us our leader is not with us," said Karin Anderson, a UVU English professor of 24 years.
Anderson joined 100 fellow employees by criticizing Holland in a letter to the editor published in The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday.
"All of us, including our university president … have the right to speak publicly as private citizens on controversial issues," the educators wrote. "However, as the public face of UVU to the larger community, Holland has a special responsibility to avoid public pronouncements that would harm his ability to carry out his duties as president of a state university officially committed to 'diversity and inclusion.' "
Schaerr's legal contribution to the anti-gay marriage case has been roundly criticized. Among the arguments the attorney made is that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to 900,000 more abortions over the next three decades.
Holland is not the only academic to sign on to Schaerr's letter, but he is the only university president to do so.
Nine professors from Brigham Young University or the school's Idaho campus also signed. Two faculty members signed from Utah State University, one from the University of Utah and one from Southern Utah University did, as well.
In a statement, the university defended Holland's decision to sign Schaerr's letter, maintaining his title was used only to identify him, not necessarily to represent the state university.
The university president has always championed "creating an environment of genuine respect and civility for all people in the exercise of strong and different beliefs, and from different backgrounds," the statement said.
But the university employees who signed the Tribune letter say Holland's connection to Schaerr's brief could do damage on the campus of 18,500 students.
The president's signature has potential to "cast colic" on the school's LGBT community, which is "not a minimal minority at UVU," Anderson said. "It's a substantial portion of our students."
Holland, a one-time political science professor, is a former board member of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay marriage nonprofit that has led the fight to block same-sex marriages. He left the group when he was picked to lead the university in 2009.
UVU's president also is the son of Jeffrey Holland, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and a former BYU president.
The link between UVU and the "100 scholars brief," the university employees wrote Friday, is "disappointing and harmful to values at the core of our public university."
Professor Jim Harris told KUTV Ch. 2 it was "a little disturbing" to see Holland's name in the paper.
The nation's highest court declined to hear the case to reinstate Utah's ban on gay marriage, but heard oral arguments in another case last month. A ruling is expected before the court adjourns in June.
It's rare for university leaders to wade into such national cases, said Dan King, president of the American Association of University Administrators. Most administrators have less intellectual credibility, King said, than academics who are currently at work researching and writing.
"Almost everything presidents say speaks for the university, in the minds of the public," he added.
At UVU, the group of employees is not calling for Holland's resignation. Anderson notes a public campus is a forum for an array of ideas.
"It just means that our president gets answered when he expresses his opinion."