Statement at Beauregard Memorial Service

President Joe Watras, May 10, 2004

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Dr. Beauregard was an untiring advocate of academic freedom on the university campus. Writing in 1978, Dr. Beauregard noted that some public and private universities had stifled academic freedom. He contended that even some Christian universities had misused their commitment to search for everlasting truth with the result that the institutional missions were led astray and the lives of individuals were broken. He concluded this short essay by observing that, in Ohio, all too often, the universities were not permeated by virtues of tolerance, understanding, and forgiveness that should have characterized them.

 

To protect the traditional ideal of academic freedom, Dr. Erving joined with other university faculty members in 1966 to establish a chapter of the American Association of University Professors on the campus of the University of Dayton. Two events led to the creation of this organization.

 

The first event was that the University of Dayton had become embroiled in a controversy with the Archbishop of Cincinnati, Karl J. Alter. This incident was sufficiently important that Philip Gleason devotes several pages to it in his history of Catholic higher education, Contending with Modernity. In this account, Gleason cited Dr. Beauregard’s work, Academic Freedom, as the major source of his information.

 

The problems began when a professor in the department of philosophy accused several of his colleagues of teaching heretical ideas. After a short investigation, the president of the university, the Reverend Raymond A. Roesch, S. M., decided that the faculty members were innocent of the charges. As complaints increased, the Archbishop set up another fact finding committee, the complaints grew. According to Gleason, the report of the Archbishop’s committee discussed the relation of the university to Catholic teaching and reported that many faculty members wanted the university to allow professors to be independent of outside religious authority. The result would be a secular university.

 

While the university did not become a secular institution, the trustees of the University of Dayton approved a statement of purposes in 1969 that most faculty members accepted. It appears in the University bulletin. Carefully worded to allow for the preservation of religious ideals and academic freedom, this statement requires that the university promote values consonant with Catholicism while operating in a pluralistic environment.        

 

The second event involved job security in a more traditional sense. In December 1966, Dr. Beauregard received a letter from a faculty member who had worked at the university for several years. In the letter, the faculty member explained the provost had decided not to renew this professor’s contract for the coming year. The professor appealed to Dr. Beauregard for assistance saying that “the University of Dayton is in need of an AAUP chapter” because no one has job security. This professor worked in department far removed from the heresy controversy. According to the letter that the provost had sent to this professor, he gave his students so many low grades that the department could not attract sufficient numbers to cultivate programs in that area. In contemporary language, the professor was guilty of excessive academic rigor.

 

It was in response to these controversies that Dr. Beauregard began his work for the AAUP at the University of Dayton. In the comparatively short time that I knew Dr. Beauregard, I found him to be a devoted and intelligent advocate for the faculty role in university governance and for the maintenance of academic freedom. His was a strong presence in the local chapter. He will be sorely missed.

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