The University of San Diego’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution blasting the president of the University for creating “a climate of apprehension and distrust” and accusing her of damaging the University’s reputation by upholding its Catholic identity and rescinding an invitation for an honorary fellowship to dissident British theologian Tina Beattie.
Earlier in the week, USD President Mary Lyons defended the disinvitation in an open forum with more than 75 students, citing Beattie’s public support for civil same-sex “marriage” as the reason. Lyons said that the donors who helped to create the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture, which had initially offered the fellowship, wished the Center to be “one place perhaps where faculty and others could encounter what the Church teaches.” She felt that the invitation was incongruent with the donors’ wishes.
The faculty resolution took that point head on, saying in effect that those who donate money to the University should have no say about what goes on in the University. The resolution stated plainly:
The wishes of donors or benefactors —or the stated interpretation of said wishes by the university administration — must not limit or impede in any way the full exercise of academic freedom in teaching, learning, scholarly activity, or academic decision-making in the university community.
The fallout, according to the resolution, has been extensive including The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) threatening to place USD on its censure list of institutions that “are not observing the generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure,” the national Executive Committee of the Academic Honor Society Phi Beta Kappa stating a “concern” about the campus’ commitment to diversity of speech and perspective, and Professor Mike Davis of the University of California, Riverside, resigning his appointment to the Knapp Chair of Liberal Arts at USD in response to Lyons’ decision.
In its resolution, the Faculty Senate accused Lyons of creating “a climate of apprehension and distrust in which self-censorship has the potential to hinder independent thinking.”
While the outrage and backlash has been strong, Bishop Robert Brom of San Diego has voiced his public support for Lyons’s decision, according to The National Catholic Register. “Academic freedom is an essential component of a Catholic university, but it means observing and submitting to the teaching authority of the Church,” Bishop Brom reportedly said. “That principle has to be respected as much as institutional autonomy.”
Bishop Brom reportedly pointed to Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education, Ex corde Ecclesiae which states, “In particular, Catholic theologians, aware that they fulfill a mandate received from the Church, are to be faithful to the magisterium of the Church as the authentic interpreter of sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition.”
The vote of the Senate was 17 to 4 in support of the measure with three abstaining. It did not advise any action other than a recommitment to their version of academic freedom.
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