Skip to content

UIUC Faculty Group Letter to Governor on Reconstituting the UI Board of Trustees, August 2009

    Brief Background
    Starting in the late 1950s, the UIUC AAUP Chapter took an active interest in the arrangement regarding the teaching of religious studies for university credit by the campus denominational foundations.  The arrangement then consisted of the various, but not all, foundations offering undergraduate credit courses mostly on their premises with practically no University oversight or approval through the customary campus channels as to course content or instructor approval.

    After a lengthy investigation and discussion, the Chapter Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee recommended to the chapter that this arrangement be terminated and that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offer such courses either through a new department of religious studies or through interdisciplinary rubrics between existing interested departments.  After lengthy debates and Chapter approval, the LAS Faculty and Dean considered the matter and added their approval.  This matter was then introduced in the UIUC Senate by resolution.  Again after lengthy discussion the Senate passed the resolution and it was forwarded to the University Board of Trustees with the explicit approvals of the Chancellor and University President.  All campus foundations, except for the Newman Foundation, indicated that they would cease teaching courses for university credit.

    After vigorous presentations by Father (now Monsignor) Duncan of the Newman Foundation to the BOT, the trustees in a rare instance overrode a properly vetted and purely faculty and administrative decision, and refused to terminate the arrangement between the University and the Newman Foundation, which has survived in its original form to the present day.
    The LAS College in the intervening years, instituted a Program in Religious Studies, and two years ago created with BOT approval a full-fledged Department of Religion.  In 2000, the then director of the program executed an operational agreement with the Newman Foundation reaffirming University control through normal campus procedures and channels over religious studies credit courses offered by and instructors supplied by the Newman Foundation.  This remains the current operational instrument under which the Newman Center staffed the present course taught by Adjunct Associate Professor Howell, who was paid by the Center and not the University. His adjunct appointment has been awarded on a one-year basis, consistent with the University practice regarding adjunct titles and appointments.

    Policy Statement
    The Policy Committee of the UIUC AAUP Chapter strongly disapproves of the current arrangement between the University and the Newman Center regarding its credit religious course, for reasons of both pedagogy and faculty-university shared governance, and vigorously urges the UIUC Senate to initiate actions to terminate the current arrangement between the University and the Newman Center.

    We wish to add that the non-reappointment of Prof. Howell, while separate from the structural issue addressed above, is also a very serious issue involving academic freedom and due process. Our understanding is that the Senate AFT Committee is actively investigating this.

    John E. Prussing
    President, UIUC AAUP Chapter