The faculty at a supposedly Catholic college in California have voted to restore funding of abortions under the health insurance coverage for faculty and staff.
In October, LifeNews reported that Santa Clara University, a Jesuit school located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, was “dropping coverage for elective abortions under health insurance for its faculty and staff members.”
Santa Clara president Michael Engh, himself a Jesuit, wrote the school’s 1600 employees that “Our core commitments as a Jesuit, Catholic university are not compatible with the inclusion of elective abortion coverage in the university’s health plans.”
Now, in an unprecedented move, the Santa Clara University Faculty Senate has voted to deem a recent health insurance policy change concerning abortion coverage “invalid” and is demanding that the college administration consult it on any changes to abortion coverage.
“The term ‘invalid’ refers to the process by which [Rev. Michael Engh, university president] made the decision,” Juliana Chang, professor of English and a Faculty Senate president, said via email. “Faculty believe that our shared governance structure means that the president should consult the faculty prior to implementing major policy decisions.”
At Santa Clara, faculty concerns have prompted the university to delay the policy’s taking effect by one year, to January 2015. In a November letter to faculty and staff, Father Engh wrote that while the decision remains “final,” the delay would allow a faculty benefits committee time to explore third-party coverage options for abortions. But the university will not pay for it.
Later that month, the Faculty Senate drafted a three-part resolution condemning the decision, in the absence of meaningful faculty input.
All 627 faculty members were eligible to vote on the matter; voting ended last week. The section of the resolution to invalidate the new policy passed by a vote of 215 to 89. The section stating that the Senate would consider “further action” on the policy unless the Board of Trustees took action to reverse it passed by a vote of 202 to 102. A final section establishing a “Governance Committee” chaired by an outside academic to review the university’s operation of shared governance passed, 201 to 103.
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Just as the nature of the vote was unprecedented, so was the turnout, Chang said. She attributed it to the “longstanding concern faculty on campus have for our system of shared governance.”
The next step for faculty is to take the resolution to the Board of Trustees for action.