Dr. Kenneth Howell began teaching courses on Catholicism at the University of Illinois in 2000. He has now been informed by university officials that he will not be allowed to return next semester.
The series of events leading up to the termination of Dr. Howell’s adjunct professorship began in May, when Howell sent a mass email to the students in his Introduction to Catholicism class. The e-mail was intended to help students prepare for a midterm question which asked them to describe utilitarianism. The different moral judgments regarding homosexual acts made by utilitarianism and natural moral law were cited as examples to assist the readers in composing their answers.
A complaint was later made on behalf of a student in Dr. Howell’s class objecting to the exposition of Catholic moral teaching contained in the professor’s e-mail on the grounds that it constituted “hate speech”. The complaint was circulated among university administrators and presented to Dr. Robert McKim, the head of UI’s religion department, who met with Dr. Howell and informed him that he would not be asked back to teach future courses.
Dr. Howell offered to compromise by electing to refrain from discussed the subject of homosexuality in all future classes; an offer summarily rebuffed by McKim. Howell then appealed to his first amendment rights and the principles of academic freedom, pointing out that he had done nothing more than his university-approved job of presenting his students with the unembellished facts of Catholic moral doctrine. This plea was also ignored, and Howell was informed that McKim’s decision not to renew his employment was final. … [more]
(HT: Brian Niemeier, Peoria Religion & Politics Examiner)
- Dr. Kenneth Howell’s personal account of his firing (HT: Thomas Peters, American Papist)
- Complete text of Dr. Kenneth Howell’s email to his students and the text of student complaint about Dr. Kenneth Howell’s email that resulted in his dismissal from UI.
- Revealing background on the firing of Ken Howell from the author of Cosmos, Liturgy, Sex, who once taught at the same university:
Of the two classes evaluated, one was on Vatican I and the Church’s response to Liberalism. The other was on the background leading up to the calling of the Second Vatican Council. While I think I was fair, I clearly laid these issues out from an interior Catholic perspective trying to explain the Catholic worldview and how this led to the events we were studying. A few days later, I was called in to Robert McKim’s office. He informed me that the “star chamber” had decided that I was not appropriate to teach within the Program. He said that he could not share with me their deliberations and that the decision was final. He did indicate to me that in general, the feeling was that I came across too much as though I believed what I was teaching. McKim is one (perhaps the only one in what is now a Department) who thinks that students should not know what the professor thinks about what he teaches, presuming that this is the only way to be “objective.”
With my departure, this left finding a way to eliminate Ken Howell as the final step in a battle that had begun nearly 60 years prior, that is to eliminate people of faith from teaching subjects having to do with their faith. To be fair, there are others who practice their faith who teach about their faith. Conspicuously missing are those of the Judeo-Christian traditions.
- Dr. Jeff Mirus asks “Is Academic Freedom Merely Academic?” (Catholic Culture July 12, 2010):
One must seriously question the notion—apparently endorsed at both universities—that a professor can contribute to public discourse only by affirming whatever his students wish to hear. But even worse is the idea that a professor must never teach things that a student might find offensive. Surely this robs the university of any possibility of moral seriousness.
- Donald R. McClarey (American Catholic) reports that a faculty group at the University of Illinois’ flagship campus will review the University’s decision.
- Dr. Kenneth Howell Update Compiled by Donald R. McClarey. American Catholic July 26, 2010.
- Faculty Committee Finds That Dr. Howell’s Academic Due Process Rights Were Denied – Update from Donald R. McClarey American Catholic. October 21, 2010.