University of Illinois

Of Aging Porn Stars and Aging Ideologies

 

 

 

My alma mater, the University of Illinois, brought a 58 year old porn star, Annie Sprinkle, to campus to teach students young enough to be her grandkids about orgasms this week.  Go here to read the story in the campus newspaper The Daily IIllini, or as generations of U of I students have referred to it, The Daily Illiterate.

It would take a heart of stone and a mind of lead not to laugh at this feeble attempt to shock.  Annie Sprinkle, or Ellen F. Steinberg, her birth name, has been doing this schtick since long before most current U of I students were born.  Something that was shocking in the Seventies of the last century is completely old hat in the porn drenched Twenty-First century.  (The U of I having an abstinence activist speak would truly be a shocking event in our current amoral climate.)  So why bring her to the U of I?

Well, and do not laugh, the ostensible reason is diversity, at least accord to this blog entry by Jordan Glaser: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Faculty Committee Finds That Dr. Howell's Academic Due Process Rights Were Denied

 

Faithful readers of our blog will recall the case of Dr. Kenneth Howell at the University of Illinois.  I have posted on his firing and subsequent rehiring here, here, here and here.  Briefly, Dr. Howell taught a course on Catholicism at the University of Illinois under contract between the Newman Center at the University of Illinois and the University since 2001.  Dr. Howell describes the events which led to his firing:

This past semester was unusual. In previous years, I had students who might have disagreed with the Church’s position but they did so respectfully and without incident.  This semester (Spring 2010) I noticed the most vociferous reaction that I have ever had. It seemed out of proportion to all that I had known thus far. To help students understand better how this issue might be decided within competing moral systems, I sent them an email contrasting utilitarianism (in the populist sense) and natural moral law. If we take utilitarianism to be a kind of cost-benefit analysis, I tried to show them that under utilitarianism, homosexual acts would not be considered immoral whereas under natural moral law they would. This is because natural moral law, unlike utilitarianism, judges morality on the basis of the acts themselves.

 After the semester was over, I was called into the office of Robert McKim, the chairman of the Department of Religion, who was in possession of this email. I was told that someone (I presume one of my students) sent this email to the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns at the University. It was apparently sent to administrators in the University of Illinois and then forwarded on to Professor McKim. I was told that I would no longer be able to teach in the Department of Religion.

Professor McKim and I discussed the contents of the email and he was quite insistent that my days of teaching in the department were over. I offered that it would be more just to ask me not to address the subject of homosexuality in my class. In fact, the other class I regularly taught (Modern Catholic Thought) never dealt with that subject at all. I also averred that to dismiss me for teaching the Catholic position in a class on Catholicism was a violation of academic freedom and my first amendment rights of free speech. This made no difference. After that conversation and a couple of emails, Professor McKim insisted that this decision to dismiss me stood firm.

The Newman Center and the Diocese of Peoria did not stand behind Howell initially, seeming to want to avoid a conflict with the University.  Dr. Howell contacted the Alliance Defense Fund which contacted the University and threatened to file suit.  Catholic bloggers raised a huge hue and cry about the firing.  Eventually the firing decision was reversed, and Dr. Howell was re- hired to teach Introduction to Catholicism in the fall semester of this year.  However, the contract between the Newman Center and the University of Illinois was ended, and Dr. Howell would simply teach the course as a regular adjunct professor of  the University.

The faculty committee has finished its examination of the firing of Dr. Howell.  Inside Education has obtained a leaked copy of the report, and a story on the report may be read here, along with a link to the report. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Victory! Dr. Ken Howell Reinstated at the University of Illinois!

Dr. Kenneth Howell, the adjunct professor at the University of Illinois who was fired for teaching Catholic doctrine regarding homosexuality in a class on Catholicism has been reinstated by the University.  Here is the press release from the Alliance Defense Fund that represented Dr. Howell:

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana confirmed to Alliance Defense Fund attorneys Thursday that it will once again allow popular professor Dr. Kenneth Howell to teach on Catholicism after recently firing him for explaining the Roman Catholic Church’s position on human sexual behavior to members of his class.

ADF attorneys representing Howell sent a letter to university officials on July 12 explaining that the university’s actions violated his rights protected by the First Amendment and asked that he be reinstated.

“A university cannot censor professors’ speech–including classroom speech related to the topic of the class–merely because certain ideas ‘offend’ an anonymous student. We greatly appreciate the university’s move to put Professor Howell back in the classroom, but we will be watching carefully to make sure that his academic freedom is protected throughout the university’s ongoing process,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French.

A letter from the University of Illinois Office of University Counsel admits no wrongdoing on the part of the university but states, “The School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics will be contacting Dr. Howell to offer him the opportunity to teach Religion 127, Introduction to Catholicism, on a visiting instructional appointment at the University of Illinois, for the fall 2010 semester. Dr. Howell will be appointed and paid by the University for this adjunct teaching assignment.”

The letter then adds that a university committee will continue its investigation of Howell’s situation.

Howell, who had been teaching at the university since 2001, was relieved of his teaching duties based in part on an anonymous complaint sent via e-mail to university officials. The e-mail was sent by the friend of an anonymous student who claimed to be “offended” by a May 4 e-mail Howell sent to students elaborating on a class discussion concerning Catholic beliefs about sexual behavior.

The May 4 e-mail from Howell addressed a May 3 lecture in which he explained how the Roman Catholic Church distinguishes between same-sex attraction and homosexual conduct. He accurately stated the church’s teaching that homosexual conduct is morally wrong, framing the issue in the context of natural moral law.

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Dr. Kenneth Howell-Update

Back on July 9, here, I wrote about Dr. Kenneth Howell who was fired by the University of Illinois for setting forth Catholic doctrine on homosexuality in a class that he was teaching on Catholicism pursuant to a contract between the University of Illinois and the local Newman Center on campus.  On July 14, I reported here that the firing was under review by a faculty committee of the University of Illinois.  The committee hasn’t completed its review, but there have been a few developments that I thought our readers might find interesting.

1.  An interesting story here by the News-Gazette, the local Champaign-Urbana paper, detailing how Dr. Howell went from a Presbyterian Minister to a lay Catholic.

2.  The Alliance Defense Fund which is representing Dr. Howell, sent a letter to the University of Illinois on July 12, demanding his reinstatement.  Read the letter here.  The Alliance Defense Fund highlights the absurdity of this situation rather well with this statement:  “A university cannot censor professors’ speech–including classroom speech related to the topic of the class–merely because certain ideas ‘offend’ an anonymous student,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French. “To fire a professor for teaching the actual subject matter of his course is outrageous. It’s ridiculous that a school would fire a professor without even giving him a chance to defend himself when he simply taught Catholic beliefs in a class about Catholic beliefs.”

3.  One thing I have learned while examining this controversy is just what a nice guy Dr. Howell is, and how open to argument and debate he is.  These characteristics are both noted by atheist John Loftus at his website here.  Dr. Howell is a model of what a university Professor should be:  knowledgeable as to his subject and willing to discuss and debate with anyone in an atmosphere of mutual respect and open inquiry.  That a man of his calibre has been subject to this type of politically correct firing is a total travesty. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Firing of Dr. Kenneth Howell to be Reviewed By University of Illinois Committee

Last week I wrote here about the firing of Dr. Kenneth Howell who had the audacity, in a class about the Catholicism, to actually state Catholic doctrine about homosexuality.  There has been enough of a furor since that the University of Illinois is acting, according to this story in the Chicago Tribune:

A faculty group at the University of Illinois’ flagship campus will review the decision to fire an adjunct religion professor for saying he agreed with Catholic doctrine on homosexuality.

Urbana- Champaign campus Chancellor Robert Easter said Monday he hopes to have a decision on the firing of Kenneth Howell from the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure by the time fall classes start. The review is to determine whether Howell’s academic freedom was violated.

“We want to be able to reassure ourselves there was no infringement on academic freedom here,” new university President Michael Hogan told members of the Faculty Senate on Monday. “This is a very, very important, not to mention a touchy and sensitive, issue. Did this cross the line somehow?” ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Anti-Catholic Bigotry Alive and Well at the University of Illinois

I am an alum of the U of I.  I obtained my BA in 79 and my JD in 82.  My wife is also an alum of the U of I, obtaining her MA in Spanish in 82.  Our eldest son will be entering the U of I as a freshman in August.  I therefore found the news that  Professor Kenneth Howell, an adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois, has been fired for teaching in a course about Catholicism  basic Catholic doctrine on homosexuality quite alarming:

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Supreme Court Rules That Public Universities May Discriminate Against Christian Student Groups

Back in 1979 I was one of the founding members of the Christian Legal Society at the University of Illinois.  Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Hastings College of Law at the University of California was within its rights to deny recognition to the Christian Legal Society because the group requires that members agree, among other principles, that sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful, and that members must be Christians.  Hastings contended that these principles violated the open membership policy of the university, in that it would discriminate against prospective members on the grounds of religion and sexual orientation.  Go here to read the decision.

Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Scalia and Thomas, wrote a thought provoking dissent.

The proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.” United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U. S. 644, 654–655 (1929) (Holmes, J., dissenting). Today’s decision rests on a very different principle: no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.

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