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After student protests and a scathing vote of no-confidence from faculty at The University of San Diego, who are upset about the University president’s withdrawal of a fellowship for a radical theologian, the board of trustees is voicing their support for the president.
In a letter addressed to “The University of San Diego Community” and posted on a pro-Beattie site called Toreros Stand with Beattie, the board of trustees didn’t go so far as to say they agreed with the decision of the University President Mary Lyons but said they believed she ”made this decision in good faith and with the best interest of the University in mind.”
This is a much-needed sign of support, since more than 100 students protested and the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences delivered a scathing no-confidence vote that went so far as to call her ”ethically bankrupt.”
Lyons has said the reason for the cancellation of the fellowship was that the theologian had publicly dissented from Church teaching.
One of the concerns cited most often by those protesting the decision is that the withdrawal of the invitation chills academic freedom on campus. But the board wrote that the University’s commitment to academic freedom remains strong. “Concerns have been raised about whether this decision challenges the University’s commitment to academic freedom and to a robust climate of free intellectual inquiry,” they wrote. “The Board of Trustees reaffirms this commitment and the essential role that academic freedom plays in our vibrant academic community.”
Lyons recently stated that the University could invite Beattie, a supporter of same-sex “marriage,” but couldn’t offer her an honorary fellowship.
While the president’s decision to rescind the invitation should be applauded, USD has a long and disturbing track record when it comes to upholding its Catholic identity. Earlier this year, USD hosted its first “educational drag show” which sparked an alumni protest. And in September, the administration urged undergraduate students to register for a course called “Using Adolescent and Children’s Literature to Explore LGBTQ Issues” as an approved elective for minors in Education, Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Peace and Justice Studies. Fortunately, not enough students showed interest in the class, and it was cancelled.
To the University of San Diego Community:
The Board of Trustees met and reviewed the series of events, statements, and views of faculty and students surrounding President Mary Lyons’ recent decision to rescind an invitation that had been extended to Dr. Tina Beattie to serve in an honorary visiting fellowship through the University’s Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture (“CCTC”).
We discussed with the president her reasoning for the decision which involved the narrow issue of whether an outside scholar should receive an honorary fellowship through the CCTC. The president has authority to make decisions of this nature, and we believe that she made this decision in good faith and with the best interest of the University in mind.
Concerns have been raised about whether this decision challenges the University’s commitment to academic freedom and to a robust climate of free intellectual inquiry. The Board of Trustees reaffirms this commitment and the essential role that academic freedom plays in our vibrant academic community.
President Lyons has led USD for nearly a decade during an era of extraordinary growth, achievement and inspiration. Under her strong leadership and vision, the University has consistently excelled.
We encourage the campus community to come together to move this great university forward.
Ron Fowler Chair