Providence College Cracks Down on Academic Freedom By Booting Pro-Gay Speaker

Doing some major backpedaling, Providence College canceled a lecture in defense of same-sex marriage that was to take place Thursday. The Roman Catholic school's provost and senior vice president, Hugh F. Lena, issued a school-wide email on Saturday, citing college policy that "dictates that both sides of a controversial issue are to be presented fairly and equally."

Same-sex marriage has only recently emerged a controversial issue; a scant few years ago, the topic wasn't on anyone's radar, let alone setting the national agenda as it is doing so today. However, given that Providence College is a Catholic institution, doesn't it presumably already have a skewed perspective on same-sex marriage? By canceling the lecture, the school is also at odds with its own standards of education, and robbing students of not only exposure to different ideas and worldviews, but also the chance to think critically for themselves.

John Corvino is an openly gay philosophy professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. He was asked by Christopher Arroyo, an associate professor of philosophy at Providence, to give a lecture on same-sex marriage. While Arroyo remains mum on the issue, the rescinding of his invitation by the school provost appears to have been an attempt to suggest that there ought to have been an opposing viewpoint to Corvino at the lecture. But Frank Dogula, an associate professor of history, said there was no such policy at Providence for previous lectures.

On top of hastily citing a need for balanced debate, the provost also invoked a 2004 document written by American bishops stating, "Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."

Why is homosexuality such a point of contention for Lena?

Moral accountability aside, by dogmatically selecting which topics are deemed suitable or appropriate, the level of censorship here is clearly polluting the educational environment. As C.S. Lewis once said, "The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts." By depriving students the opportunity of learning, of testing their own ideas for themselves, what kind of an academic policy is Providence's administration trying to foster?

Apparently, not an academic one at all.

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Jessica Lee

Jessica is a Master of International Affairs candidate at Columbia University School of International & Public Affairs, where she is currently the Online Managing Editor at the Journal of International Affairs.

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