Academic Freedom v. Church Affiliated Universities

 image Recently, Seton Hall University found itself in the middle of a controversy over a class they planned to offer.  Seton Hall University will offer a controversial course on gay marriage over the objections of Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, according to the professor scheduled to teach the class.

Seton Hall University is a private Roman Catholic university in South Orange, New Jersey, United States. Founded in 1856 by Archbishop James Roosevelt Bayley, Seton Hall is the oldest diocesan university in the United States. Seton Hall is also the oldest and largest Catholic university in the State of New Jersey. The university is known for its programs in business, law, education, nursing, and diplomacy.

A friend of mine, who is ultra-Catholic (lapsed/re-convert to Catholicism, nice guy but believes nearly everything the Catholic Church believes), tends to think that Catholic universities are getting too far away from teaching image Catholic doctrine and are thus becoming too secular.  I happen to disagree with them.  A religiously affiliated school, whether Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, etc., is first and foremost a university.  The word university comes from the Middle English word universite, from Old French, from Medieval Latin ūniversitās, from Latin, the whole, a corporate body, from ūniversus, whole.  Therefore, the word derives from a body that teaches everything and is universal.  If a university is limiting what they are teaching they are no longer serving their function as a university.  As a religious institution they have the right to teach as part of their curriculum their own brand of dogma, have certain rules regarding student behavior, etc.  However, a university should never limit academic freedom.

image What the Newark Archbishop objected to was what he saw as criticism of the church.  I have spoken about objectivity before.  A person should see both sides of the issue and be able to make their own determinations.  If you are purposely given only part of the story, then they insult your intelligence by not allowing you to make up your own mind.  When a school does that they are not longer teaching they are preaching.  Academic freedom is the most sacred institution in higher education, without we are no better than dictatorships who disallow free speech.  Our universities are their to broaden out minds not to narrow them.

I applaud Seton Hall for standing up for what is right and allowing the class on Gay Marriage to continue.

The undergraduate seminar course — called “The Politics of Gay Marriage” — is to begin Tuesday with about two dozen students, said W. King Mott, an associate professor of political science.

The quotes listed in this post are from the following article:



About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

2 responses to “Academic Freedom v. Church Affiliated Universities

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