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Faculty Senate at Santa Clara Votes Abortion Decision to be 'Invalid'

The Faculty Senate at the University of Santa Clara recently voted that the administration’s decision to drop abortion from its health coverage plan is “invalid,” according to Inside Higher Ed.

The term “invalid” refers to the process by which the University made the decision without consulting the faculty. It does not overrule the decision.

Juliana Chang, professor of English and a Faculty Senate president, reportedly said,“Faculty believe that our shared governance structure means that the president should consult the faculty prior to implementing major policy decisions.”

As The Cardinal Newman Society reported earlier this year, Father Michael Engh S.J., the president of the University, sent a letter to faculty and staff at the Jesuit institution saying he was ending health insurance coverage for “elective”abortions. He cited the university’s “commitments as a Catholic university” as the reason for the change, which is not scheduled to actually take place until January 2015.

After significant protest from many, the Faculty Senate initiated a resolution condemning the decision and put it up for a vote. The faculty overwhelmingly voted to invalidate the new policy by a vote of 215 to 89. They also voted to form a “Governance Committee” to review the University’s commitment to shared governance.

In a recent op-ed piece called “Father Does Not Know Best” that appeared in The San Jose Mercury Times, Nancy Unger, a history professor at Santa Clara, said, “Many fear that this denial of comprehensive abortion coverage is part of a wider effort to allow private employers to impose their religious beliefs on employees, denying a raft of health care services from abortion and contraception to vaccines.”

“‘Father knows best’ is not a compelling argument here, especially when one man denies hundreds of women access to a procedure that he could never need,” she wrote. “It’s also no principle on which to run a university.”

Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society, countered, “In fact, our Father does know best! The flawed concept of an unlimited ‘academic freedom’ and ‘shared governance’ that extends to insurance for abortions, thereby denying the core beliefs that are central to the Catholic mission of the university and in fact imposing employees’ religious disbelief on the institution, is foreign to Catholic higher education.”

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