Tenure Fight for Theologian Is Defused


A confrontation between Auburn University’s faculty and its administration was apparently averted with a ruling last week that university policies were not violated by the withdrawal of an offer of tenure to controversial Catholic scholar Charles Curran.

University officials announced that the Alabama school’s Tenure and Promotions Committee decided that university President James E. Martin did not violate campus policies or Curran’s academic freedom when he denied tenure to the scholar.

The withdrawal last spring of the offer angered some faculty members, who felt Curran--barred by the Vatican in 1986 from teaching Catholic theology--was again being unfairly treated.

Enticed to Auburn by the prospect of tenure, Curran eventually had to settle for a one-year, visiting professorship at the university.


Auburn’s University Senate had set a deadline of last Friday for Martin to offer a full explanation of his reasons for denying tenure.

After Martin met with the tenure committee, Ronald J. Henry, vice president for academic affairs, announced that a majority of members agreed that the university president acted properly.

Campus policies state that when a currently employed professor is denied tenure, the reason must be disclosed in writing. However, because Curran was not an employee at the time of the offer, those rules do not apply to his case, Henry said.

A statement issued by the tenure committee said Martin assured members that his reservations about Curran “had nothing to do with moral turpitude, ethical reputation or scholarship.”


Neither the 13-member committee nor Martin fully disclosed the president’s objections to granting Curran tenure, but they were thought by some faculty members to be primarily related to Curran’s disputes with Catholic authorities.

Dean Mary P. Richards of Auburn’s College of Liberal Arts noted that in her written offer of tenure to Curran, dated April 4, she said it was contingent upon approval by the president.

However, Curran has said that his understanding was that tenure had already been approved when it was offered.