UI professor Howell returning to teach during spring semester

A religion professor at the University who was asked to leave after e-mailing his students about the Catholic Church’s views on homosexuality isn’t just back on campus for the fall — on Tuesday, he was asked to return to teach during the spring semester as well.

Professor Kenneth Howell said that the decision to approve his position for the Spring semester is one he is very happy about.

“I would like to go back to the quiet life of being a teacher,” he said

Howell was an adjunct professor of Catholic studies at the University, a position that was financed and coordinated by the Newman Foundation. Howell’s dismissal came about after he sent a controversial email, about which a student complained, discussing the Catholic Church’s opposing view to homosexuality.

After the university was threatened by a potential legal battle, Howell was rehired for the Fall semester. His position will now be paid for by the University. He also learned word today that will continue teaching during the Spring semester.

Howell remains involved with the Institute of Catholic Thought, and also receives a salary from the Newman Center for his work there.

Howell had been a professor since 2000 before he was told by the department of religion head Robert McKim that he was been terminated.

A recent report by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the University, suggests that Howell was not given due process when he was asked to leave without a formal hearing.

The report indicates the university did not feel the need to explain Howell’s termination because adjunct professors have the understanding that they can be dismissed whenever.

The report also indicates that it became clear the University wanted to terminate Howell in fear that his continued employment might label the university as hostile to the gay community.

Howell said that it is not his job to not offend students but rather it’s his job to create discussion.

He added he felt his intentions were largely misunderstood.

“The purpose of the email was to contrast two moral systems,” Howell said.

He said that he never felt he was imposing his beliefs on his students, but rather communicating ideas that are fundamental to the Catholic Church.

Howell added that email and all of his other emails which brief his lectures, are emails he hoped would generate conversation and debate among his students.

He said that most of his emails generated limited response from his students and that bothered him.

“They disagree but they don’t discuss,” Howell said.

Howell said a public university is one where professors should be able to express different kinds of views.

“If necessary, I will say what needs to be said, that’s exactly what a university should be.”

He added that he think that’s research universities are sometimes not conducive to a liberal education.

“The students at the University of Illinois are some of the brightest I’ve ever taught however I think the system of education they’ve come through has not prepared them for life,” Howell said.