Saturday, December 8, 2012

Catholic university faculty rebukes president over academic freedom

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
Dec. 7, 2012

The primary representative body of University of San Diego faculty has firmly rebuked the Catholic institution’s president, saying her leadership has created a “climate of apprehension” and has been “inconsistent with the mission of the university.” The vote by the University Senate, which represents the institution’s seven colleges, came Thursday after weeks of dispute over president Mary Lyons’ cancelation of a visiting fellowship for noted British theologian Tina Beattie.

Beattie, a theologian at London’s University of Roehampton known for her work in contemporary ethical issues, had been scheduled to begin a fellowship at the San Diego’s Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture on Nov. 6.

Lyons, who says the theologian publicly dissented from church teaching by suggesting Catholics could support civil same-sex marriage, canceled the appointment Oct. 27.

Prominent theologians and academics in both the U.S. and the U.K. have criticized the decision, saying it represents a significant crackdown on academic freedom.

San Diego faculty and students have also said Lyons’ reasoning for the cancelation has shifted over the past weeks, leaving unclear exactly what process the president followed in making her decision and what influence pressure from financial contributors played in the move.

“The Senate finds President Lyons’ decision … and her evolving justifications for this action to be incompatible with the principles of academic freedom and shared governance, and inconsistent with the mission of the university,” reads one of three motions approved by the Senate Thursday.

Addressing the issue in a four page resolution composed of 23 clauses giving justification for their motions, the Senate also stated that:

University donors “must not limit or impede in any way” scholarship or teaching;
No part of the university “can be excluded or exempt from the protections of academic freedom”;
The university’s “international and national reputation was damaged” due to Lyons’ decision;
The decision may “produce a negative impact on recruitment and retention efforts”;

Lyons has “created a climate of apprehension and distrust in which self-censorship has the potential to hinder academic thinking” and, The president has “provided neither sufficient clarification … nor any compelling justification for her decision.”


Ron Fowler, the chair of the university board, said in a Nov. 16 letter to the university community that the board believe Lyons made the decision to cancel Beattie’s fellowship “in good faith and with the best interest of the University in mind.”

Read entire article at the National Catholic Reporter

No comments:

Post a Comment