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Ohio evangelical univ. rejects AAUP report

CEDARVILLE, Ohio (BP)–Cedarville University has responded sharply to a report criticizing the firing of a tenured professor in the school’s biblical studies department.

The 42-page report, released Jan. 15 by the American Association of University Professors, acknowledges that Cedarville, a 3,200-student university located in southwest Ohio, followed its internal procedures for faculty termination but says those procedures fail to measure up to the AAUP’s standards for protecting academic freedom and guaranteeing due process.

The report focused on the July 2007 termination of David Hoffeditz and another tenured professor in the same department, David Mappes. While Mappes chose not to appeal the action, Hoffeditz took the decision to a faculty grievance panel, which concluded, on a split vote, in his favor. Cedarville President William E. Brown overruled that decision and was upheld in April 2008 by university trustees.

The termination involved a debate at the school over the degree to which Christians can be certain in their knowledge of truth — a debate university officials said had distracted attention and diverted energy from the school’s mission. A statement released by the university at the time said “it became necessary to take action in order to restore a healthy team spirit and to refocus our attention and energies on our mission.”

Hoffeditz sought the assistance of the AAUP’s Ohio conference in August 2007. The following month, a three-member team urged the university to reinstate Hoffeditz and conduct any future actions in conformity to “AAUP-supported principles and standards,” according to the report. On Oct. 1, university counsel David A. Haffey replied that the university was bound by its governing documents, not AAUP standards.

A statement released by Cedarville Jan. 14 said the American Association of University Professors produced its report through “a fatally flawed process, designed to preserve pre-determined conclusions consistent with the AAUP’s historical bias against religious schools.”

In a Jan. 8 statement released ahead of the AAUP report, Cedarville spokesman John Davis said Cedarville’s policies and procedures “comply with state and federal law governing private and religious colleges and universities” and that faculty accept those policies and procedures when they sign their contract with the university.

David also alleged that religiously affiliated institutions constitute a significantly disproportionate number of colleges and universities investigated and censured by the AAUP.

“Approximately 20 percent of all colleges and universities in the United States are religiously affiliated institutions, however, over 40 percent of the colleges and universities censured by the AAUP are religiously affiliated,” David said. “This list includes institutions such as Grove City College, Brigham Young University, Catholic University of America, Tulane University, Hillsdale College, and Yeshiva University.”

The American Association of University Professors is not a union that represents the entire faculty of a school but a membership organization that accepts individual faculty members, spokesman Robert Kreiser told Baptist Press. “Very few, if any” other Cedarville faculty are AAUP members, he said.

Cedarville University had an historical relationship with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches and in 2002 the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio voted to recommend Cedarville to the state’s Southern Baptists. In 2006, the GARB voted to sever ties with the university because of perceived liberalism in the SBC.

Cedarville University does not receive any funds from the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio or through the Cooperative Program, the unified budget of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. Cedarville University is located on the Internet at cedarville.edu. The full text of the AAUP report may be found at http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/protect/academicfreedom/investrep/2009/cedarville.htm.

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  • Mark Kelly