It's nice to be able to end the week on an upbeat note: the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign announced yesterdy that it has reinstated adjunct reilgious studies professor Kenneth Howell (read about it here in CHE). Howell had regularly taught a course in Catholic moral theology at U of I at U of I since 2001. He was summarily dismissed, however, following a complaint from a student - not actually enrolled in the course - who took issue with Howell's presentation of Catholic teaching on homosexuality. (see Peter Wood's account here). This was truly bizarre: without so much as interviewing professor Howell or any of the students actually taking the course, university officials removed him within days of receiving the complainant's second-hand version of Howell's conclusions, on the pretext that he had violated the school's principle of "inclusivity." I still don't know what that is, but it sure can get you into a lot of trouble. Anyway, following a public uproar and much well-deserved embarassment, U of I has rescinded his termination and offered him his customary teaching assignment for the Fall semester. The single change will be his direct employment and compensation by the University, rather than through the campus Catholic center, by which he was previously paid. All's well that ends well, as they say. The whole episode, though, should never have transpired to begin with. That it did tells you what truly bad shape academic freedom is in these days.
- July 30, 2010