Thursday, November 15, 2012
SAN DIEGO University of San Diego President Mary Lyons spent over an hour addressing faculty concerns Thursday. She attended a meeting of the school's faculty senate after academics in the Catholic university's College of Arts and Sciences gave her a vote of no confidence Tuesday over her revocation of a scholar’s invitation to campus.
Tina Beattie, a British theologian, was scheduled to visit USD as an honorary fellow earlier this month. Lyons revoked that invitation after learning about a controversial letter Beattie signed along with 26 other prominent Catholics, urging Catholics to support civil marriage rights for same-sex couples in the United Kingdom.
Lyons said the ensuing controversy, which led to Tuesday's no confidence vote, misconstrued the scope of her decision.
“This was a decision that was made not to ban Dr. Beattie from campus, not to ban her or anyone else from speaking on any subject, no matter how controversial," she said. "This is not an issue about same sex marriage.”
Lyons says it was inappropriate to bestow an honorary fellowship on Beattie with the school’s Center on Catholic Thought and Character. She told the faculty senate that the fellowship would have been in conflict with the center's mission to be a reflection of the university's Catholic identity and a place faculty and students can go to learn about the religion's traditions.
Faculty leaders questioned Lyons for about an hour on topics such as why the university hadn’t only withheld the honor and simply hosted Beattie as a speaker.
Lyons told the faculty senate that the university needs to establish a way to resolve similar issues and that the process could involve faculty, students and administrators.
“Our Catholic character will rub up against in some way one or two issues in the academy and that’s always going to happen. But we have to just figure out a way to essentially move through those things," she said.
Faculty questions about academic freedom and the university’s role in challenging and questioning church doctrine drew applause from faculty and students watching the meeting in a viewing room.