Phi Beta Cons

Firing A Professor for Teaching His Subject?

Has our university culture become so sensitive, so easily offended, that it cannot even allow professors to teach their subjects without monitoring the campus for hurt feelings? Apparently so. The University of Illinois has summarily fired a professor after he described Catholic moral teaching on human sexuality in a class about Catholic moral teaching.

The professor, Dr. Kenneth Howell, was fired because a student who was not even in Dr. Howell’s class fired off an e-mail to, among others, the “director of the LGBT resource center” and the “founder of the queer studies major.” The student was offended by an e-mail Dr. Howell sent to his class that compared and contrasted utilitarian moral frameworks with Catholic teaching on sexuality. Unfortunately, some students don’t want to be exposed to ideas they find unpleasant. Even worse, university officials agreed. So they fired Dr. Howell without even giving him a chance to defend himself.

This morning, the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom (full disclosure: I’m the director) sent the university a letter describing Dr. Howell’s First Amendment rights and urging the university to reinstate Dr. Howell immediately.

Let’s make no mistake about the facts: The university is making a conscious decision to enforce ignorance on its students. The university would rather see its students remain ignorant of one of the world’s most common moral theories than have their delicate feelings damaged. This is not education; it’s indoctrination in its purest form. The University of Illinois not only wants to teach its preferred ideology (see, e.g. the LGBT resource center), it will go to great lengths to ensure that students don’t even hear about alternative ideas.


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