Visiting professor snubbed by USD speaks out

School's invitation to Tina Beattie rescinded

On the University of San Diego campus, controversy surrounding a disinvited professor is sparking student action.
 
"The education process as a whole is being cheated," said Arjan Jooyan, a USD senior who's majoring in religious studies and political science.
 
There is plenty of frustration after Tina Beattie, a well-known British professor of religious studies, learned her month-long fellowship at USD had been canceled --- a week before she was due in San Diego.
 
"I was astonished, really. I didn't know what to make of it," said Beattie.
 
Beattie said an email from USD President Mary Lyons pointed to a published letter she and 26 others signed several months ago, saying it was perfectly proper for Catholics to support gay marriage.  
 
"She said she was regrettably rescinding the invitation because apparently I dissent from Catholic moral teachings," said Beattie.
 
Critics have accused the school of bowing to pressure from funders.
 
However, in a statement, the school pointed out Beattie signed her letter as a theologian, not a professor.
 
Lyons said, "It is my considered judgment that Dr. Beattie's decision to exercise her office as a Catholic theologian and sign a public document dissenting from the church's official position is what led me to rescind the invitation."
 
"I think it'd be terribly sad if what we saw was a culture of fear and self silencing," said Beattie.
 
It's an action Jooyan said cuts at the heart of academic discussion.
 
"Education can't take place if the textbook, so to speak, is censored and silenced … it's disconcerting to hear the university doesn't seem to respect academic freedom," said Jooyan.
 
Jooyan set up a Facebook page in support of Beattie, and as of Monday evening, more than 70 have RSVP'd for a demonstration Tuesday afternoon.
 
T-shirts have also been made amid the campaign to get a visiting professor re-invited.       
 
Beattie said she wasn't representing the church as a theologian, and she pointed out there is a rich tradition of debate within the church.
 
The school said Beattie's actions didn't support the catholic character of the university.
 
Below is Lyons' full response:
I recently made the decision to rescind an invitation to Dr. Tina Beattie, a Catholic theologian from the United Kingdom, scheduled to begin this month as a Visiting Fellow at the University's Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture. Last week I was made aware that, in August and subsequent to the Center's earlier invitation, she took an action which prompted my decision. It is that action and my decision which I want to clarify.
 
First, Dr. Beattie's extensive record of scholarship has been well known, addressing issues that many would presume to be controversial, e.g. abortion and sexual orientation. I want to emphasize that it was not her teaching or scholarship that prompted me to rescind this invitation. I respect her right, as an academic and a Catholic theologian, to engage in whatever work she deems necessary and important. Indeed, my own record of support for academic freedom is well known at this institution and the previous ones which I have administered.
 
Second, in executing the responsibilities of my office, I must exercise prudential judgment in making decisions that are thoughtfully considered but difficult, nonetheless. While I seek consultation in these matters, my decisions have been made without regard to pressure groups or donor influence. I believe my support of our students' "drag" show last Spring is evidence of this.
 
Third, while the entire University is responsible for respecting the Catholic character of our university, I bear a particular responsibility for this, especially when such respect is in question. And herein is the heart of this matter:
 
On August 13th, 2012, Dr. Beattie became the signatory of a widely distributed, public letter urging Catholics to dissent from official Church teaching. It is significant that she signed the letter as a "theologian." This action is materially different from the exercise of scholarship and teaching appropriate to the role of an academic and whose freedom to do so I consistently defend. The Frances G. Harpst Center of Catholic Thought and Culture (CCTC), for which I was the primary architect several years ago, exists to provide opportunities for its participants to learn about and encounter the Catholic intellectual tradition in its many dimensions, including its doctrinal, moral, spiritual, social, aesthetic contributions. I personally solicited benefactors who understood and support this mission. One might assume that those Catholic theologians to whom we offer a public platform and an honorary fellowship, particularly when offered through the CCTC, would give evidence by their own public positions of support for both the mission of the Center and the Catholic character of our university. It is my considered judgment that Dr. Beattie's decision to exercise her office as a Catholic theologian and sign a public document dissenting from the Church's official teaching is what led me to rescind the invitation.
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