Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2010.07.11
Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. http://www.lgbtcampus.org
Archives of the QNOC Digest can be found at http://queernewsoncampus.blogspot.com
Reminder: If you come across articles that should be included in the digest, please email a link to the article to email@example.com
1. Israel News - University dismisses lecturer over anti-gay remark
2. Inside Higher Ed - Constitutional and Unwise
3. Inside Higher Ed - Lesson From Justice Kennedy
4. The Guardian - Stonewall rates gay-friendly universities
5. WIBW - New Resource Center To Support Homosexual College Community
6. The Daily Cougar - LGBT Coogs celebrate: Resource Center opens, offers community space to share, learn
7. Inside SU - Syracuse University appoints new director of LGBT Resource Center
8. The News-Gazette - Instructor of Catholicism at UI claims loss of job violates academic freedom
1. Israel News, July 4, 2010
Ynetnews, 127 Yigal Allon Street, Tel Aviv 67433 Israel
University dismisses lecturer over anti-gay remark
By Ilana Curiel
A bioethics course taught by Dr. Yeruham Leavitt at Ben-Gurion University was canceled after he implied that homosexuality was a flaw that could be "contained", Ynet learned Sunday.
Leavitt, a professor emeritus and a resident of the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, has been teaching the course to students at the Clinical Pharmacology Department for years. About a month ago he received a letter saying the course had been cancelled due to a "hurtful and inappropriate" remark he made in class.
During a discussion on artificial insemination among same-sex couples, a female student said children of gay parents may be influenced by their parents' sexual inclination. Another student, a homosexual, took offense to the comment and said clinical research has shown children of same-sex couples develop normally.
The student said sexual tendencies are not a matter of choice, but Leavitt claimed same-sex couples may harm children who are uncertain of their sexual preferences and deprive them of a "normal" family life.
According to the lecturer, sexual inclination can be chosen and contained. "Take me for example. I'm attracted to all women – but I contain myself," he said. "So can homosexuals."
Some students who were offended by the remarks complained to the university's faculty committee, which summoned Leavitt. During the hearing, the lecturer admitted to making the remarks and said they had been understood correctly by his students.
Leavitt claimed it was acceptable to voice personal opinions during ethics courses.
Ynet obtained a letter in which Prof. Riad Agbaria, head of the Clinical Pharmacology Department, confirmed that Leavitt's contract has been terminated.
"There is no room for personal opinions that offend some of the students," the letter read.
The faculty committee decided to cancel the course.
Dr. Leavitt told Ynet, "My embarrassing dismissal from Ben-Gurion University constitutes a severe violation of basic rights, including the right to dignity, academic freedom and freedom of expression."
The lecturer, who said the affair hurt his reputation, added, "I have nothing against the gay and lesbian community. Moreover, during my many years at the university I have always instilled the values of tolerance and liberalism."
Leavitt called the administrative procedure that lead to his dismissal "undemocratic" and "inappropriate."
The university said in a statement, "The lecturer made a categorical comment on the homosexuality phenomenon. During his hearing, (Leavitt) did not apologize for his offensive comments and even repeated them.
"Ben-Gurion University sanctifies freedom of thought and expression, but the lecturer blatantly crossed the line," the statement read.
2. Inside Higher Ed, July 6, 2010
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Constitutional and Unwise
By Shapri D. LoMaglio
As an association representing institutions of higher learning, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities is sensitive to the claims of institutional autonomy presented by the Hastings College of the Law in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. However, as the institutions within our organization are religious in nature, we are also acutely aware of the religious freedom concerns presented by this case. Ultimately, because this decision did not determine the constitutionality of the more common "non-discrimination clauses," its limited scope is such that this ruling has little broad applicability beyond "all-comers policies" at public universities, and in many ways leaves more questions than it answers. As higher education works to understand the implications of this limited decision, and formulate policies in light of it, the academy must wonder whether all-comers policies -- in which public colleges limit recognition to student groups that will allow any and all students to join and run for office -- though deemed constitutional, really help further the laudable goal espoused by Justice Anthony Kennedy of "enabling [students] to explore new points of view."
In his concurrence Justice Kennedy observes that "vibrant dialogue is not possible if students wall themselves off from opposing points of view." But one might ask how a vibrant dialogue is possible if opposing points of view are not present. Here, Hastings argued that CLS built the wall by excluding members who would not sign its statement of faith. Did Hastings itself, however, not build a wall by rejecting CLS as a student organization? CLS had a version of an all-comers policy, allowing attendance and participation by non-members, requiring the statement of faith only for members and leaders. Would not vibrant dialogue have occurred more readily on campus during club meetings, between members with one point of view and non-members with different points of view, than by rejecting CLS? Further, this analysis ignores the reality that vibrant dialogue occurs within groups of like-minded people – the vigorous debates within political parties clearly demonstrate this. And at a macro level, had CLS remained a student organization, perhaps another Christian group with different beliefs would have formed, creating vibrant dialogue between these two groups.
It is easy to mischaracterize CLS’s membership policy and to oversimplify it as outright discrimination, but a more nuanced approach might be more useful to the academy as it moves forward in applying this case. In Corp. of the Presiding Bishop v. Amos, a central case to the bounds of religious association, the then-leader of the liberal wing of the Court, Justice William J. Brennan, explained that a religious community defines itself by "determining that certain activities are in furtherance of an organization’s religious mission, and that only those committed to that mission should conduct them, is ... a means by which a religious community defines itself." And this Court itself reaffirmed the constitutionality of CLS’s expressive activity, "[i]nsisting that an organization embrace unwelcome members we have therefore concluded, 'directly and immediately affects associational rights.' " Preventing discrimination on campuses is a worthy goal, but reflexively applying the hatchet of an all-comers policy may actually undermine equally worthy goals: free speech, freedom of association, and an open marketplace of ideas. Might public colleges and universities instead formulate more nuanced policies that take care to ask whether a group’s belief-based membership requirements are "in furtherance of [the] organization’s religious mission," instead of simply rejecting these groups outright?
A key tenet of almost all religions is that they hold beliefs distinct from other religions and the non-religious -- communal beliefs are essential to the religious. Religion has often been challenged to define these beliefs in the face of cultural shifts, but it is the prerogative of those within the religion to determine those boundaries. And as mystifying or even offensive as some of those ideas are to those outside (or even inside) that religion, a key principle of our American ideals is that those ideas be challenged not rejected.
Within the CCCU itself this case sparked debate – debate which we welcomed as a sign of a healthy and robust organization. Such debate is part of the fabric of academe. If in an effort to limit liability more public and colleges and universities adopt these all-comers policies, part of that fabric could be undone. Though they claim to promote diversity, they actually promote sameness. How can a robust marketplace of diverse ideas exist when no group is allowed to unite around a core set of unique beliefs that give them their identity?
Academia has long stood for a free and open expression of ideas, undergirded by the expectation that the best ones will ultimately rise to the top. Rather than merely “tolerat[ing]” unpopular viewpoints, as Justice Stevens suggests, public colleges and universities should engage them. As Thomas Jefferson said, referencing the University of Virginia, “This institution will be based upon the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."
Shapri D. LoMaglio is government relations and executive programs director of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
3. Inside Higher Ed, July 6, 2010
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Lesson From Justice Kennedy
By Linda Hirshman
There probably weren’t any Supreme Court justices marching in the pride marches of recent weeks. But they did give gay people a nod last Monday. In Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Supreme Court upheld a University of California Hastings College of Law rule prohibiting registered student organizations from excluding anyone, in this case, lesbians and gays. The Christian Legals contended that their religion forbade them to associate with people who engaged in “unrepentant homosexual conduct,” and that the law school rule violated their religious freedom in demanding open membership.
The opinion, by Justice Ginsburg, is hardly a paean to gay rights – it carefully notes that the world of registered student organizations is a “limited access public forum,” not a full public forum like a town square. A limited public forum, which carries with it benefits, is treated somewhat more like the public funding cases. People may have rights, as the Christian Legal Society claimed, not to associate, which would protect them, for example, from a law forcing them to take gay members, but they do not have rights not to associate and to still claim money and recognition from the University of California. Certainly nothing in the opinion indicates that gays and lesbians are a specially protected class such that an organization funded by the state university excluding them particularly would violate the 14th Amendment. All this opinion does is turn back the claim that religious beliefs trump all other legal claims, including the university’s rules of inclusiveness.
The opinion is noteworthy not just for what it says about public colleges and their student organizations, but also for what it may suggest about Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the constitutional challenge to California’s Prop 8, rejecting gay marriage, as it ever so slowly wends its way to the Supreme arbiters. First, the 5-4 decisions in the Hastings case was that rarest of birds, a collection of the Court’s four liberals plus the gays’ best hope: Justice Anthony Kennedy. If the case against Prop 8 has any chance in the Supreme Court as likely configured, it rests in Justice Kennedy, who wrote the opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case striking down the sodomy laws as unconstitutional.
Second, Justice Kennedy’s separate opinion, concurring in the opinion of the Court, is a pretty stirring argument for the Prop 8 plaintiffs coming up from California. Justice Kennedy takes time to write separately, even though he explicitly says he only speaks to support the opinion of the Court, because he wants to say a word in defense of the special role of reason in a legal system:
“Law students come from many backgrounds and have but three years to meet each other and develop their skills. They do so by participating in a community that teaches them how to create arguments in a convincing, rational, and respectful manner.... As a condition to membership or participation in a group, students were required to avow particular personal beliefs or to disclose private, off-campus behavior ... were those sorts of requirements to become prevalent, it might undermine the principle that in a university community — and in a law school community specifically — speech is deemed persuasive based on its substance.... A school quite properly may conclude that allowing an oath or belief-affirming requirement, or an outside conduct requirement, could be ... inconsistent with the basic concept that a view’s validity should be tested through free and open discussion.”
By all reports, the strongest thing the plaintiffs in Perry have going for them, beside the obvious talents of their lawyers, David Boies and Ted Olson, is the power of rational argument. To be constitutional, legislation has to have some basis in reason. Since the defendants, cleverly or foolishly, chose to limit the presentation of evidence in Perry essentially to one dubious expert, they were forced, by closing argument, to contend, simply, that Prop 8 is constitutional, because the groundless fears of a majority of the referendum voters constitutes a rational basis for legislation. This position differs radically from the arguments that the Prop 8 proponents presented in the campaign for Prop 8, which included the damage to society by treating gay and lesbian people as normal and worthy. It even differs from the defendants’ original attempts, at trial, to present evidence that the option of same sex marriage actually harms heterosexual marriage. In essence, the Prop 8 defendants are arguing that they do not have to make a substantive, rational argument for their law.
By forcing them into a court of law, the plaintiffs challenged not so much the substance of Prop 8 as its metaphysics: What counts as reason? Inchoate fears may be the currency of political campaigns, sadly. But Justice Kennedy’s opinion reminds us that they are emphatically not the stuff of the American legal system, starting with the three years in which its practitioners learn their skills. If he means what he said, this rare bird may also be the first swallow.
Linda Hirshman is at work on a book on the gay revolution, "Victory! How a Despised and Marginalized Minority Came Out, Pushed Back, Faced Death, Found Love and Changed America for Everyone," to be published in 2011.
4. The Guardian, July 6, 2010
Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU
Stonewall rates gay-friendly universities
By Harriet Swain
Club scene. Reputation for research. Proximity to parents' washing machine. All issues prospective students will be weighing up over the next few weeks as they make final decisions about which university to choose. But some will be asking another question, too – which institution will allow them to feel comfortable about who they are?
It is a question the lobby group Stonewall aims to help answer for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students through a new guide to "gay-friendly" universities. The online guide, published today, measures more than 125 institutions against a 10-point checklist, covering issues from whether they specifically mention sexual orientation in their harassment policies to whether they organise special LGBT social events. It supplements these facts with information about the strength of student LGBT societies, any reported incidents of homophopia, and whether honorary degrees have gone to prominent gay or lesbian figures … or prominent homophobes.
Stonewall has studiously avoided producing a league table, arguing that many universities have recently been making efforts to improve, and that "gay friendly" means different things to different students.
Luke Tryl, who researched the guide, says: "Each student will want something different from their university experience and we have been very clear in the guide that this is just one of the many things they should be looking at. All students should feel safe and supported and able to perform well. But some may want a very active gay scene, some will want a community and strong LGBT society, others may want to campaign." He says the reason for compiling the checklist was to show what every university should have in place as a matter of course.
And some institutions have scored more highly on this list than others. Birmingham, Bradford, Cambridge, Cardiff, the University of Central Lancashire and King's College London, among others, meet nine out of 10 of the criteria, while Huddersfield, Strathclyde and Teesside meet only two – which means they have more work to do.
"No university scored 10 out of 10, and in some cases there was clearly a lot more that had to be done," says Tryl. "There is quite a big divide in the sector."
Contrary to expectation, it is not necessarily a big city/rural divide. While many institutions in big cities did well across both checklist and the more general criteria, so did institutions in much smaller places, such as Aberystwyth.
Gary Nunn, a spokesman for Stonewall, says: "Universities like Aberystwyth come off really well because of their LGBT society. Not having a major gay scene locally means for that very reason they have developed the LGBT society to be very strong."
Kieran Simpson, Open Place co-ordinator of the society, AberPride, says: "I didn't really find who I was until I became a student. The main issue is being confident in yourself and universities can help with that by having a strong ethos and strong LGBT society. The society here helped me a lot to find who I was. We are just like a little family."
Nunn says many LGBT people never get to university because bullying at school harms their self-esteem and stops them reaching their potential. For those who do, university offers a chance to discover their identity, and often to come out, but this can be a huge step, demanding sensitivity and support.
Tryl says the research found that there was a lot of complacency within institutions. "We had some universities saying 'obviously everyone is treated equally' without understanding that these provisions should be in place," he says.
This echoes the findings of a recent report by the Equality Challenge Unit, which promotes equality and diversity in higher education. The report, published last April, found that half the LGBT students who responded had experienced negative treatment from fellow students, while 34% of staff respondents said they had had abuse from colleagues.
Chris Hall, senior policy adviser at ECU, says things are improving. "ECU's own research of 18 months ago did find homophobia in institutions, and since the issue has been highlighted we've seen a great response across the sector from higher education institutions determined to support their LGBT students, as well as staff," he says.
Two universities, Liverpool John Moores and Imperial College, were included in Stonewall's index of Britain's top 100 gay-friendly employers this year, and the institutions that come out particularly well in the new university guide have often made special efforts to improve their LGBT support.
Phil Wilkinson-Blake, chair of the staff LGBT group at Loughborough University, which hit nine of the checklist criteria, says his university has worked hard over the last three years as part of an attempt to become a Stonewall Diversity Champion. The staff and student LGBT groups now work much more closely together and diversity training specifically includes LGBT issues.
Rosie Valerio, director of human resources at the University of Sheffield, which scored eight, says the university has consciously tried to improve its LGBT credentials, holding a day of discussions and workshops last November to help the university reflect on the need to promote diversity.
In London, LGBT academic and non-academic staff from universities across the capital will meet for the first time this week to plan future events and discussions. Matt Evans, convenor of the King's LGBT network group, who has helped to organise the meeting, says recent work by Stonewall and the ECU, combined with the 2010 Equality Act – which comes into force in October – have brought LGBT issues to the fore in universities.
But he says problems remain with "banal" homophobia, "things embedded in these old institutions, particularly some that have a religious angle to them, that makes for resistance". And he is worried about the effect of cuts. "Restructuring and the change in morale is not always a conducive environment to start talking about other people's personal issues that could affect how they are working," he says.
The hope of LGBT university campaigners is that this will have to change because of pressure from students. "Students are now consumers," says Nunn. "They expect universities to cater to their specific needs." The Stonewall guide offers them the chance to add their comments about their experiences at different institutions. And universities be warned: Stonewall has not ruled out producing a "gay-friendly" university league table in future years.
How to be gay-friendly
Checklist of essentials:
1. Have a harassment policy that specifically mentions sexual orientation
2. Train staff on LGBT issues, and make the training mandatory
3. Have an LGBT staff network – if staff feel comfortable about being open, so will students
4. Have a strong LGBT student society
5. Make sure information on LGBT issues is widely available
6. Organise specific events for LGBT students
7. Make LGBT counselling available
8. Consult LGBT students
9. Offer LGBT student targeted careers advice
10. Be a member of Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme, a forum for sharing good practice and research on sexual orientation
And preferably, have a lively local gay scene
5. WIBW, July 6, 2010
631 SW Commerce Pl., Topeka, Kansas 66615
New Resource Center To Support Homosexual College Community
MANHATTAN, Kansas - A new resource center opening in the fall semester at Kansas State University will provide support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students, faculty and staff.
The center, in 207 Holton Hall, will be staffed 20 hours a week by Brandon Haddock, K-State doctoral student in geography, Junction City. Operation hours are being determined.
"I would like to thank the Student Governing Association; Gayle Spencer, associate dean of student life and director of student activities; Kirk Schulz, K-State president; and Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students, for their efforts in establishing K-State's first-ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center," said Andrea Blair, adviser to K-State's LGBTQ and More student organization and the director of disability support services.
Blair said having a clearly identified center will help create a more inclusive and welcoming campus for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students, prospective students, faculty and staff.
Initially, Haddock's responsibilities will include:
* Working with the LGBTQ and More student organization to ensure the continuous development of student leaders.
* Serve as the K-State resource person for the well-being and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered members of the campus community.
* Provide information, support and referrals.
* Create programming to help educate the K-State campus.
* Coordinate and provide education, outreach and advocacy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered concerns within the campus community, including organizing panels to speak to classes and at other diversity events on campus.
6. The Daily Cougar, July 7, 2010
University of Houston, Room 7, UC Satellite, Houston, TX 77204-4015
LGBT Coogs celebrate: Resource Center opens, offers community space to share, learn
By Jose Aguilar
Houston City Council member Sue Lovell led a list of speakers who helped celebrate the grand opening of UH’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center last week.
The turnout of over 60 people required Lovell to speak on the UC balcony outside of the center.
Lovell, who has been at the forefront of gay rights in Houston since the 1970s, praised the University for opening such a center and also praised the students for choosing to come out at such an early age.
“I have three sons… and I am so amazed,” Lovell said. “They have such a mixture of friends. Their friends are out, they accept them, and it’s incredible. I have to say to all of you (students)… thank you.”
“You and your age group have made it much easier for my youngest son’s generation to be totally out. It had to do with you and your wanting to come out and be out. Because of that, they will know freedoms that I certainly didn’t know and that you have experienced,” said Lovell.
The opening comes four months after the center officially opened its doors and years after the idea of a GLBT center first took root on campus.
“There have been many other staff members who have, for many years, tried to get the resource center established and finally they were successful,” newly appointed director of the center Lorraine Schroeder said. “We’re just trying to get the program put together and ready to launch in the fall.”
The grand opening occurred at the tail end of Pride month and took place days after the city’s nighttime parade, but that was purely coincidental.
“Actually, I wasn’t hired until May and I needed time to plan,” Schroeder said. “It just so happened that it was the same week as Pride week.”
One of the persons long involved in the process of getting a center on campus was associate professor of English Maria Gonzalez, who has been advocating GLBT issues since the 1990s and focusing on a campus center for the past decade.
“It’s an amazing feeling after all these years to get this set up. It’s almost like we have arrived,” Gonzalez said. “My hope is that someday we will close it down because there will be no discrimination on this campus and we won’t need it anymore because we will have succeeded in dismantling any kind of discrimination, any kind of heterosexism and any kind of homophobia.”
Gonzalez stressed that the resource center is not only for students but also for faculty and staff, and she praised the role administration played in making this idea become a reality.
“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the administration,” she said. “Kudos goes to the Provost John Antel, and also to our General Counsel Dona Cornell. These two people were pivotal in making this happen.”
Beverly McPhail, director of the Women’s Resource Center, served as de facto director of the GLBT Resource Center while the search for a permanent director took place.
“I’m really impressed (with the administration), especially in a time of budget cuts, they could have easily said no (to the new position),” she said. “We have to really thank the Provost for making this happen.”
McPhail talked about the number of students who have seen the center during the various summer orientations that are currently taking place.
“Students will come in and say, ‘It’s so great to have a GLBT center, I feel welcomed, I know I’m accepted, I don’t have to hide who I am,’ and I think that’s so important,” McPhail said. “I think it makes a statement, not only to GLBT students, faculty and staff but also to straight faculty. We boast about our diversity and this is another part of our diversity that we are really proud of.”
Graduate College of Social Work Sen. Josephine Tittsworth is excited that GLBT Cougars now have a place to call their own.
“I’m excited, I’m glad it’s finally here,” Tittsworth said. “We finally have a place to have a voice, to be heard and a place to go to when we need to talk. That’s so very important for people to have that sense of belonging.”
The center is currently accepting donations of books and DVDs that will build their lending library.
7. Inside SU, July 9, 2010
Office of News Services, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-5040
Syracuse University appoints new director of LGBT Resource Center
By SU News Services
The Syracuse University Division of Student Affairs has named D. Chase James Catalano as the new director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center. Catalano replaces current director Adrea Jaehnig, who is leaving the University and relocating this summer. Catalano’s appointment is effective Aug. 1.
Catalano is currently a doctoral candidate in social justice education at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he has designed and taught various courses and workshops addressing social justice and diversity in higher education, racism, sexism, identity, oppression and liberation.
“Social justice education has given me additional language, theoretical frameworks and broader views to understand systems of oppression and privilege,” says Catalano. “In my doctoral work, I am able to complicate identity through exploring institutional systems, dominant culture, subversive paradigms and the multiplicity of identities through which we view experiences.”
He also worked as assistant residence director for residence life at UMass-Amherst from 2003-09, serving for two of those years as the primary supervisor to the resident assistant of the “2 in 20 Community,” a floor comprised of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and ally (LGBTQQA) students.
“We are very excited to welcome Chase to both our campus and Syracuse communities,” says Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, associate vice president of inclusion, community, and citizenship in the Division of Student Affairs. “He brings a wealth of knowledge of student development theory, social justice and issues impacting the LGBT community. Chase’s experiences will greatly enhance the work of the LGBT Resource Center and the Division of Student Affairs.”
Catalano holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies, with a gender studies concentration, from Dickinson College, and a master’s degree in higher education administration from UMass-Amherst. He has substantial presentation and teaching experience, and served for three years on the leadership team of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ Knowledge Community on LGBT Issues.
Catalano looks forward to connecting with students on integrating queer issues with other aspects of social justice and identity awareness and development, and discussing how their lived experiences are not detached from, or devoid of the content of their classroom education. “I hope to be able to work with students and colleagues in discussions about topics and issues that engage the many aspects of student and academic life on the campus,” says Catalano. “The LGBT Resource Center has many successful programs and resources already established, and I am inspired to imagine future possibilities.”
8. The News-Gazette, July 9, 2010
15 E. Main St., Champaign, IL 61820
Instructor of Catholicism at UI claims loss of job violates academic freedom
By Jodi Heckel
URBANA – An adjunct professor who taught courses on Catholicism at the University of Illinois has lost his teaching job there, and he claims it is a violation of his academic freedom.
Kenneth Howell was told after the spring semester ended that he would no longer be teaching in the UI's Department of Religion. The decision came after a student complained about a discussion of homosexuality in the class in which Howell taught that the Catholic Church believes homosexual acts are morally wrong.
Howell has been an adjunct lecturer in the department for nine years, during which he taught two courses, Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought. He was also director of the Institute of Catholic Thought, part of St. John's Catholic Newman Center on campus and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria. Funding for his salary came from the Institute of Catholic Thought.
One of his lectures in the introductory class on Catholicism focuses on the application of natural law theory to a social issue. In early May, Howell wrote a lengthy e-mail to his students, in preparation for an exam, in which he discusses how the theory of utilitarianism and natural law theory would judge the morality of homosexual acts.
"Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY," he wrote in the e-mail, obtained by The News-Gazette. "In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same."
He went on to write there has been a disassociation of sexual activity from morality and procreation, in contradiction of Natural Moral Theory.
The student complaint came in a May 13 e-mail to Robert McKim, head of the religion department. The author of the e-mail said he was writing on behalf of a friend – a student in Howell's class, who wanted to remain anonymous. The e-mail complained about Howell's statements about homosexuality, which the student called "hate speech."
"Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing," the student wrote in the e-mail. "Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one's worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation."
Howell said he was presenting the idea that the Catholic moral teachings are based on natural moral law, and the Catholic understanding of what that means.
"My responsibility on teaching a class on Catholicism is to teach what the Catholic Church teaches," Howell said. "I have always made it very, very clear to my students they are never required to believe what I'm teaching and they'll never be judged on that."
He also said he's open with students about his own beliefs.
"I tell my students I am a practicing Catholic, so I believe the things I'm teaching," he said. "It's not a violation of academic freedom to advocate a position, if one does it as an appeal on rational grounds and it's pertinent to the subject."
Cary Nelson, a UI emeritus professor of English and president of the American Association of University Professors, agreed. He said while many professors choose not to share their beliefs with students, they are free to do so and to advocate for a particular position.
"We think there is great value in faculty members arguing in a well-articulated way," Nelson said. "What you absolutely cannot do is require students to share your opinions. You have to offer students the opportunity to freely disagree, and there can be no penalty for disagreeing."
Nelson is the co-author of a 2007 AAUP statement on "Freedom in the Classroom," as well as the author of a recent book that deals with academic freedom.
"It's part of intellectual life to advocate for points of view," he said, adding he has often used it to start a lively discussion in his classroom.
"Hopefully when they go out in the world, they can emulate that. They can argue a case, and do it in a well-informed and articulate way, and can make a more productive contribution to our democracy that way," he said.
Nelson also said it would be inappropriate to remove someone from a teaching position because they advocated for a position, unless they also required that their students to share the same belief.
Howell said when McKim talked with him about his teaching position, McKim expressed concern that Howell's statements in class would hurt the department. McKim is currently out of the country, and he deferred questions to Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs.
Kaler declined to comment on the specifics of a personnel matter. She said adjunct lecturers are hired on a semester-by-semester basis, and they have no expectation that their employment will last longer than that semester.
Kaler also said the UI is "absolutely committed to teaching the theory of Catholicism, but it's up to the department as to who teaches a class."
The religion department's website says Howell was recognized for excellent teaching in the spring and fall semesters of 2008 and 2009.
In a series of e-mail exchanges between McKim and UI administrators about how to proceed regarding Howell's teaching and his appointment as an adjunct professor, McKim states he will send a note to Howell's students and others who were forwarded his e-mail to students, "disassociating our department, College, and university from the view expressed therein."
In another e-mail, Ann Mester, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, wrote that she believes "the e-mails sent by Dr. Howell violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us."
Howell said he and McKim have deep disagreements over religious matters, and his job loss was the result of "just a very, very deep disagreement about the nature of what should be taught and what should not be taught.
"It's an egregious violation of academic freedom," he added.
The UI Academic Staff Handbook's statement on academic freedom states that faculty members must teach their courses in a way consistent with the scheduled time, course content and course credit. "Within these constraints, they are entitled to freedom in the classroom in developing and discussing according to their areas of competence the subjects that they are assigned."
They must also provide students with "the freedom to consider conflicting views and to make their own evaluation of data, evidence, and doctrines. Furthermore, faculty members have a responsibility to maintain an atmosphere conducive to intellectual inquiry and rational discussion."
Howell said he disagrees with the idea that a professor must present lessons without even hinting at his own beliefs on a subject.
"It doesn't seem to me to be particularly honest or fair to a student. If you believe something, you can tell the student that," he said. "Where it becomes problematic is if it becomes injurious to a student by penalizing them for their beliefs. I always tried to be fair and honest and upfront with my students, and engage them on questions of human reason."
In his e-mail to students, Howell wrote: "All I ask as your teacher is that you approach these questions as a thinking adult. That implies questioning what you have heard around you. Unless you have done extensive research into homosexuality and are cognizant of the history of moral thought, you are not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter. All I encourage is to make informed decisions."
Howell said he's often had students who disagree with him, but "that's always been done with courtesy and respect on both our parts. This semester the students were the most negative and vociferous and critical that I've ever seen."
Howell is working with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian-based organization that "provides the resources that will keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel through the legal defense and advocacy of religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values," according to its website. Howell said his goal is to be restored to the classroom so he can continue teaching his courses.
The Alliance Defense Fund has just begun looking into Howell's situation, according to a spokesman.
Senior counsel David French provided a written statement, saying "A university cannot censor professors' speech – including classroom speech related to the topic of the class – merely because some students find that speech 'offensive.' Professors have the freedom to challenge students and to educate them by exposing them to different views. The Alliance Defense Fund is working with Professor Howell because the defense of academic freedom is essential on the university campus."
After losing his teaching position with the UI, Howell was told by the Newman Center that he would no longer be employed there either. The Newman Center referred requests for comment to the diocese office in Peoria.
Patricia Gibson, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese and an attorney, said, "We funded the position so he could teach at the UI. He has been told he cannot teach these classes in the future.
"We are very concerned and very distressed by what we understand is the situation from Dr. Howell," she said, adding the diocese has contacted the UI and hopes to meet to talk about the matter.
Howell was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1978. In 1996, he converted to the Catholic faith. He came to the UI in 1998 to teach at the Newman Center.
News-Gazette staff writer Lynda Zimmer contributed to this report.
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