Two days after posting "Kudos" to Providence College's Provost, Hugh F. Lena, The Motley Monk unfortunately has to rescind those "Kudos."
Lena had disinvited the Chair of Philosophy at Wayne State University and a proponent of so-called "homosexual marriage rights," John Corvino, from lecturing at Providence. The Motley Monk praised Lena defending the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the sanctity of marriage.
At the same time, however, Lena's explanation for disinviting Crovino was rooted in a USCCB document that had to do with inviting politicians whose public policy stances are at variance with Church teaching. The Motley Monk noted fact that in his post, wondering at the time whether that document provided a sound defense for Lena's decision.
Predictably, the champions of academic freedom at Providence College and their minions raised this very issue, according to Inside Higher Education.
Arguing that Lena was citing a document that had nothing to do with academic lectures, Providence's champions of academic freedom also charged the Provost with changing the rules for inviting outside speakers to campus.
Alumni and others also busied themselves posting critical comments on Providence College's Facebook page, noting that the institution was treating students like sixth-graders, for example. One critic asked: "Hey Providence College, when is the next scheduled book burning?"
Lastly, a new group, "Fighting for Academic Freedom," was created and petition drives were launched.
Such an "injustice," no? How could this possibly happen in U.S. Catholic higher education which is supposed to be so diverse and inclusive, not narrow-minded and parochial?
Last night, Lena's office issued the following announcement:
Wednesday, September 25, 2013.
A MESSAGE FROM THE PROVOST
I wanted to update the campus community regarding the proposed event featuring Dr. John Corvino, a nationally-recognized proponent of same-sex marriage. As most of you know, that event was originally scheduled to take place tomorrow, September 26. I announced its cancellation this past Saturday, September 21. I want to let you know that the event is being rescheduled with Dr. Corvino and Sherif Girgis, a Ph.D. student in philosophy at Princeton University and a J.D. candidate at Yale Law School. Both individuals have agreed to the event and the likely date will be sometime in the spring semester. We will keep you apprised as soon as we have the details finalized.
The Administration’s decision to cancel the event had nothing to do with Dr. Corvino. We were concerned, rather, that the event had strayed from what had originally been proposed – a presentation of philosophical and legal arguments in support of same-sex marriage by Dr. Corvino opposite a presentation of opposing arguments by a similar person of national repute.
As most of you know, Dr. Dana Dillon, a highly respected and accomplished member of our Theology Department, was asked at the last minute to participate in the event. She graciously agreed to do so. However, the Administration felt that it was unfair to ask Dr. Dillon, a theologian, to debate opposite someone who would be presenting philosophical and legal arguments, not theological ones. Just as our cancellation of the original event had nothing to do with Dr. Corvino, neither did we mean to imply that Dr. Dillon was incapable of debating the issue. I apologize to Dr. Dillon if our intent was not clear or was misinterpreted in any way. Along those same lines, I also want to apologize to Dr. Christopher Arroyo who was instrumental in working to organize the event and who continues to be engaged in its rescheduling. In hindsight, we should have announced that the September 26 event was merely being postponed, not cancelled, until we could be sure that it went forward in the format in which it was originally proposed.
I know that the events of the last few days have engendered a great deal of discussion on our campus, from alumni and friends of the College, and from the media. I hope most will agree that rescheduling the event as it was originally proposed is the proper course of action for the College to take.
- Lena wasn't canceling the lecture but was really trying to reschedule the event. (Really? This explanation sounds more like what a public relations official would conjure up to silence sixth graders.)
- Providence College theologian, Dana Dillon, was scheduled to speak immediately after Corvino to offer a Catholic perspective. However, Dillon didn't have enough time to prepare. (OMG! A female theologian at a Catholic university isn't "prepared" to speak concerning the Church's teaching about the sanctity of marriage? What an insult! Perhaps a male theologian--a "canus Domini"--would be better prepared?)
The aphorism "What a web we do weave when our aim is to deceive" seems apt for assessing Provost Lena's meandering attempts to backtrack.
So now, in a true spirit of diversity and inclusiveness, Corvino will be speaking at Providence College. He wrote in an email:
In 20 years of speaking, at over 200 campuses, I've never had an invitation so abruptly revoked and then reinstated. And while the provost says that it has nothing to do with me, it has of course had an effect on me. Nevertheless, I look forward to going to Providence to debate my friend Sherif Girgis.
The college practice used to cancel this event -- namely that "both sides of a controversial issue are to be presented fairly and equally when discussed in a forum such as this" -- is full of potential concerns for our faculty. Are all addresses on controversial topics henceforth to require two speakers? Will every talk given at the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies henceforth provide a second speaker to give the "other" side of any important issue?
This expectation seems to suggest that we faculty are helpless, passive listeners who have no choice but to accept what any speaker tells us about a controversial topic. Our faculty contains thinkers from the best graduate programs in the world, and includes an excellent theology department and a priory of Dominican friars -- are we not capable of challenging one speaker if we find biases, inaccuracies, weaknesses, or equivocal statements in his or her presentation? Do we need a second speaker to defend us from controversial ideas, or can we engage speakers ourselves and argue with them?
...There are blatant errors of fact in the official college statement on our webpage, which seem a violation of the college motto Veritas. For one, the statement asks whether the college should have given the speaker "an unchallenged platform." As the publicity for the event made clear, however, our own Dr. Dana Dillon of the theology department was scheduled to give a response to Dr. Corvino’s paper. Dr. Dillon holds a Ph.D from Duke University and specializes in moral theology, so it seems incredible to say that Dr. Corvino’s presentation was to be "unchallenged."
...I think this reversal is good for our campus and for academic freedom, but I certainly don't think everything is resolved. The faculty are asking why the administration thought it was acceptable to treat us in this manner and to place highly questionable restrictions on our academic freedom in the first place. Faculty and students alike are also deeply concerned about the damage this incident has done to the reputation of the college, and whether we will have to face similar limitations on our academic freedom in the future.
With increasing frequency...the Holy Father's words will be used to promote public lectures about so-called "rights" that are contrary to Church teaching. Lecturers like Corvino will now paint themselves as victims rather than the radicals they truly are. And academic administrators like Lena will be portrayed as right-wing Neanderthals.
Perhaps academic administrators at the nation's Catholic universities and colleges should just say "No," put up with the ranting quislings until they tire out, and put an end to what's nothing other than nonsense. Why fear them and their blather?
Let the tenured radical ideologues promote the ideologies at the public universities.
Score yet another one for the champions of academic freedom and their minions, this time at Providence College.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the article in Inside Higher Education, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk's previous post on this matter, click on the following link: