Grove City College Case, Dating Back to 1962, Settled in 2015

By Jordan E. Kurland

Grove City College in Pennsylvania, stalwartly conservative to the extent of declining to accept federal funding, was placed on the AAUP censure list in 1963 following its administration’s summary dismissal of Professor Larry Gara without written charges or opportunity for a hearing. Gara moved on to a successful academic career at Ohio’s Wilmington College, which retained him in part-time teaching well past his retirement and which awarded him an honorary degree on his ninetieth birthday.

At Grove City, meanwhile, the decades wore on with no communication at all from the administration to the AAUP. By 1995, the college had acquired the dubious distinction of most senior institution on the censure list, with Larry Gara’s the oldest case remaining unresolved. Last summer, however, a new Grove City provost, on behalf of a new president taking office, wrote to convey interest in getting the censure removed. While both parties in subsequent telephone conversations acknowledged that differences in official policies and practices were formidable, the AAUP urged the administration to proceed promptly to extend a gesture of redress to Gara while he was still alive.

In October, Grove City’s president emeritus, with the media notified, drove to Wilmington to extend the administration’s apology to Gara, age ninety-three, at his home. The Grove City administration’s October 29 notification to the AAUP staff is reproduced below:

As you are aware from the news release this week, Grove City College has reached out personally to Professor Larry Gara to express our regret at the way in which his situation was handled. Regardless of whether the AAUP’s censure of the College is lifted, we believe that this was the right thing to do and we are pleased to help bring some closure to Professor Gara.

We hope very much that the policy issues can be worked out so that it will be possible for AAUP to consider removing the censure in your 2016 meeting. We believe it to be in all our best interests to get this long-standing matter resolved. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

AAUP staff, in a November 2 letter, responded, “It hardly needs saying that [Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure] joins us in sharing your hope that the outstanding policy issues can be worked out in the weeks immediately ahead.”