The American Association of University Professors, which holds its annual meeting this week in Washington, will present its Alexander Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom to Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, for her outspoken defense last year of the right of Roman Catholic colleges to have a range of speakers on their campuses. McGuire devoted her commencement address last year to the controversy over President Obama's visit to the University of Notre Dame to give the commencement address there. Anti-abortion groups organized protests and urged Notre Dame to withdraw the invitation because Obama favors legal abortion rights. In her talk, which she adapted to an essay that was published on Inside Higher Ed, McGuire said that this kind of "religious vigilantism" was an affront to academic freedom and to the open traditions of Catholic higher education.
The Meiklejohn award -- last given in 2003 -- goes to academic administrators who have made major defenses of academic freedom. The AAUP citation for McGuire states: "President McGuire has a reputation for speaking out on topics other college presidents will not touch. She understood clearly that the drama that unfolded last year on the Notre Dame campus would affect the future of all Catholic colleges. She spoke out when others did not. Her passion for justice, for the salutary benefits of open and rigorous debate, for what is simply right did not allow her to keep silent. Her voice has provided inspiration, encouragement and guidance to the leaders of Catholic colleges and universities across the country and, in fact, to all those in the academy who must resist the forces of censorship and repression."