Mark Davies
Professor of Linguistics
"Leaving BYU"

Quick overview: I came to Brigham Young University (BYU) in 2003, after twelve years at another university. From 2003-2015 everything was great. I was perhaps the most productive of the 200+ faculty members in the College of Humanities, I received almost every research award possible at BYU, and I got along great with my department chairs and college deans. This all changed dramatically when Scott Miller became dean of the College of Humanities in 2015. Scott carried out a number of actions that would have killed off the BYU corpora that I had created and which were used more than any other resource by people outside of BYU. When I pushed back and attempted to protect the corpora, Scott retaliated against me and created an incredibly toxic work environment, including (ultimately) withdrawing all of my research support. In spite of many requests from myself and other people in my department for more than a year and a half, the university administration did absolutely nothing to help. Without any more research support, I was essentially forced to "retire" eight years early in 2020.

I am the creator of the corpora from, which used to be at The corpora were by far the most widely used resource at BYU (especially by people outside of BYU), and the corpora have been cited more in academic publications than any other resource created at BYU. Personally, I was perhaps the most productive scholar in the College of Humanities (which had more than 200 faculty members), and I received several college and university-level research awards.


From 2003 (when I came to BYU after 12 years as a professor at Illinois State University) through 2015, I had an excellent relationship with the deans (Van Gessel and John Rosenberg), as well as my department chairs (Lynn Henrichsen, Bill Eggington, and Diane Strong-Krause). These first twelve years at BYU were wonderful.

This all started to change in 2016 when Scott Miller, the new dean of the College of Humanities (assisted by Jared Christensen, college controller) took several actions that seriously threatened the future of the corpora. Subsequently, other actions by Scott Miller led to a situation where I was essentially forced to "retire" eight years early, at the age of 57. Selected details about the actions that led to my early "retirement" are given below.

1. The problems started in 2016, about a year after Scott Miller became dean. Scott launched an extremely invasive ten-month university-wide audit of me, and of my handling of income from the BYU Corpora. There was a simple misunderstanding about something that the previous dean (John Rosenberg) had promised, and if Scott had contacted me (or John), this could have all been cleared up in 4-5 minutes. Bill Eggington, my previous chair in the Department of Linguistics, also tried to assure Scott that there was "no there there" -- it was all a simple misunderstanding. But once Scott had initiated the audit, he wouldn't back down. Ten months later, Brent Webb (Academic Vice President of BYU at that time) concluded that -- no surprise -- there had never been any serious problems. There were some bookkeeping errors, but there was nothing purposely malicious. Scott never apologized for the way that he had masterminded the audit -- where an adverse outcome could have cost me and my family a great deal. But I do suspect that the outcome was a blow to the perceived "authority" of this new dean.


(Just as a sidelight -- at this very time (2016-2017), I had a $250,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the College of Humanities received most of that money. This was the fourth large federal grant that I received while at BYU, for which the university received a total of $700,000-$800,000. But Scott never acknowledged that grant (or any awards or recognition that I received while he was dean), or the money I had brought to the College of Humanities.)


2. In about 2017-2018 -- mainly because of the fiasco with the audit, but due to some other issues as well -- I started feeling very nervous about further actions that Scott might take against me or the corpora. I asked repeatedly if I could receive a simple two or three sentence email confirming the agreements that John Rosenberg (his predecessor as dean) had made with me in 2014. Scott would not give that simple assurance, and so the long-term future of the corpora (at BYU) was now "in limbo". Finally, in mid-2018 he told me that I would have no access to the corpora after I left BYU, which meant in essence that they would disappear at that point. This was in spite of the fact that the corpora were the most widely-used resource by people outside of BYU.


3. Things had gotten bad enough by late 2018 that I realized that in order to save the corpora, I would probably need to take them off-campus, away from Scott Miller. In December 2018, BYU created a contract to let me take the corpora off campus. After the central administration signed it, the only signature that was still needed was Scott's. But he emailed the person in charge and said that he wouldn't sign, because (his words) "it gives away too much to Mark Davies" (exact quote from an email, and this was even though it was a standard BYU contract; there were no special concessions in my case). Scott sat on the contract for three weeks, and wouldn't even let anyone else go into his his office to get it. He finally signed it "under duress" on 2 January 2019, but only because the central administration made him do it. (And it's not that Scott was sorry to see the corpora leave BYU. I'm not quite sure that he -- as a professor of Japanese literature -- ever really understood what a corpus is, or what the corpora were used for, or that he cared that they were used so much by researchers throughout the world.) What bothered him is that he no longer had as much control over me or the corpora -- and I suspect that that ate away at him.

The following are just a sampling of his actions after I took the corpora off-campus.


1. On 2 January 2019, about five minutes after signing the document that allowed the corpora to go off-campus, Scott and Jared sent an email to the administration to have it "move" more than $10,000 (which other universities had already paid for academic licenses for the corpora in 2018) to a different account, where I wouldn't have access to it, and where it would not go to help the corpora after all (which is what the other universities expected to happen). Scott will deny this or say that it was just a "mistake". But I have unambiguous, contemporaneous emails from him to others at BYU in January 2019 showing how he deliberately took this money, and then subsequent emails from him showing how he tried to cover up these actions.


2. Scott forced me to submit an annual "Conflict Management Plan" (CMP), to prove that I wouldn't shirk my responsibilities at BYU, since I would be spending time on the now off-campus corpora. And any year in which he was not satisfied with my performance, there would be "consequences". First, this was unfair, because (as far as I've been able to ascertain) no one else from the College of Humanities had ever had to do a CMP, even though others were much more involved in off-campus projects than me. But it was also purposely insulting on the part of Scott Miller. I was one of the most productive scholars (probably the most productive scholar) in the College of Humanities (which has more than 200 faculty). I had been one of the top researchers at BYU while I worked on the corpora when they were at BYU from 2003-2019. So why would this change now that they were off-campus (and actually taking less time to administer, since I wouldn't have to deal with BYU red tape anymore)? It was just Scott's way of letting me know who was still in control, and that he could still take action against me at any time.


3. Scott eventually had to return the $10,000. But in spite of his (and Jared's) financial shenanigans, he now warned the the department chair that from then on, I might be subject to extensive audits, probing to find any "irregularities", and to make sure that not a dollar of BYU money ever went to benefit the corpora in any way. (It is so ironic that Scott and Jared weren't the ones who were under constant threat of audits, after they purposely "misappropriated" more than $10,000 from other universities.) As mentioned above, Scott had previously initiated a high-stakes ten-month audit of the corpora from June 2016 through April 2017, in which the central administration found (unsurprisingly) no evidence at all of any "misconduct". But now in retribution for me questioning his authority, Scott warned darkly that such audits of my activities might become a regular occurrence, as long as I stayed at BYU.

4. By mid-2019, Scott told others in authority in the college point blank that he was tired of me, and that he just wanted me out of BYU as soon as possible. A lawyer who works with employment issues has told me that this is actionable -- that you legally can't get rid of someone just because you don't like them. This is especially true in a university setting, when they are a full professor and when they have had excellent evaluations every year. And it is so strange that I had a great relationship with previous deans and department chairs. For some reason, it was just Scott...

5. Finally (and most importantly), in mid-2019 Scott told the chair and associate chairs in the Department of Linguistics that from that point forward, I would be blocked from receiving any further research support (for sabbaticals, research assistants, travel, etc) for research related to corpus linguistics (which is my primary area of research), since he feared that this money might somehow benefit the now off-campus corpora (see #2 above). Again, this was in spite of the fact that I was probably the most productive scholar of the 200+ faculty in the College of Humanities. Anyway, without this support it is pretty much impossible to be a professor, which meant that after 30 years my career as a professor was effectively over.

Despite repeated pleas to the central administration from mid-2019 on -- to have them intervene to stop this harassment from Scott Miller -- they did absolutely nothing to help.

1. Brad Neiger -- who as head of "Faculty Relations" is the person assigned to help resolve issues like this -- never showed any interest in seeing any evidence of what Scott had been doing. Brad did meet with me for 5-10 minutes in April 2019, and then he met with Scott a week later for about twenty times that amount of time. Scott convinced him that I was a “troublemaker”, and after that, Brad Neiger explicitly refused to pursue any resolution to the problems.

2. When I mentioned the “misplaced” $10,000 to David Paul (University Treasurer) in a meeting on 28 March 2019, he told me bluntly to not “air my dirty laundry” to him, and he refused to get involved. I thought this was a bit strange, since BYU was in essence "misappropriating" money that had been entrusted to them by other universities throughout the world.

3. Finally, Shane Reese (Academic Vice President from 2019-2023, who was the administrator in charge of of deans on campus) did absolutely nothing to help. In spite of emails that I sent to him from October 2019 until January 2020, he never met with me or was willing to get involved in any way. Shane Reese reappointed Scott Miller to a second term as dean in January 2020, without ever having asked for feedback from any of the 200 faculty in the College of Humanities. This went against the standard practice at BYU, and against the promises that Shane had made to me personally in late 2019. In addition, Shane Reese cancelled appointments with the two associate chairs in my department, who wanted to talk to him in February 2019 to confirm the issues listed above. It was no surprise that Shane Reese became president of BYU in 2023, since he seemed to me like a true "yes man" who protected the administration (such as deans), but not individual faculty.


It is not overly surprising that BYU would pay such little attention to academic issues involving deans and faculty, 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, and there is relatively little interest in retaining faculty who are helping researchers and students throughout the world, rather than just those who are inside of the "BYU bubble".


In the end I had no option but to leave BYU several years early, which I did in 2020. I have sacrificed a huge amount of money (eight years of salary, and higher pension payments for the rest of my life) by retiring this early in my career. Obviously, things must have been pretty bad to leave that much on the table. This wasn't just a frivolous, "attention-getting" stunt. There was real harassment from Scott Miller, and the central administration refused to do anything to stop this harassment. The only way out was to leave BYU, thus ending what had been a very satisfying and productive career as a professor.


2024 update (Note that for most of the last four years, this page has not been available. It has just been in the last month that I revised the page that I created four years ago and put it online again.)

It's been almost four years since I left BYU, but it seems like it was much longer ago. Overall, early "retirement" was definitely the right choice for me, even if I was pretty much forced into that decision. Of course it would have been nice to have a BYU salary during this time (and for the next four years, until I'm 65), but my family is doing OK. And the main thing is that the corpora are now far away from BYU and Scott Miller. As a result, there is no longer any worry about them disappearing after my retirement, which is what Scott said would be the case if the corpora had stayed at BYU.

But I realize that it's probably time to permanently "retire" this page as well. Four years is far too long to be nursing grievances against Scott Miller and BYU. Most days, I don't think about these things at all; they are just a distant memory (and that's why this page hasn't been available much during the last four years). But every now and again (like in the last month or so), I still think that maybe it would be nice to have people be accountable for ruining careers and trying to destroy resources (like the corpora) that have been of value to so many people. And so I guess that this page -- for however much longer it is available -- will be a tribute to that hope.