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Friday, December 26, 2014

SCCB 'News': Dancing Around the Issue: Academic Freedom at Jesuit School in Question

Carthage, IL: December 26, 2014
Filed: Catholic Information Service of Nunavut

Hot on the heels of an incident where a student at the Jesuit-run Marquette College was told that in an ethics class he could not question the rights of homosexuals to marriage and to adopt, another incident has left many wondering what still remains of academic freedom among the followers of Ignatius of Loyola.

“I will not permit the central role of liturgical dance in the First Century Church to be questioned in this class,” said Professor Janet Freewheeler, Ignatius Hill-Top College’s, ‘Cardinal Bernadin Chair of Theoretical History.’

The controversy began when theology student, Jim Ngoya, a Rhodes Scholar with a 4.0 GPA, and member of the Southern Baptist Convention of Nigeria, asked Freewheeler about her position.

“I was so excited to come to Ignatius Hill-Top to learn all about the Catholic Faith. I did not question professor’s statement. I only asked for Biblical references and for her to comment on the fact that no such assertion is made in the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity or any other source that I have so far come across – and I am fluent in eight languages, both ancient and modern.”

Ngoya added, “The first time I asked Prof. Freewheeler about the matter, she said, ‘Yes, dance was central in the ‘white church,’ just as it is in your church.’ I told her that I have never danced in my church. I admit, I did not understand what she meant by the ‘white church.’”

The young man took his concern to the Chair of the Theology Department, Fr. Gerry White, S.J., as he wanted to write a paper on what Ngoya refers to as “Professor’s exciting thesis - and perhaps he had some ideas for leads.”

When asked about the incident, Fr. White told SCCB (in German) that “students should not tell us too much what we have to do.”

The Department Chair added that he was proud of Prof. Freewheeler’s commitment to academic freedom in courageously pursuing this original line of research. “We have to have the courage to look beyond the sources and have the courage to re-imagine history, if we are ever going to reach new horizons. And this is what she has done. She is an inspiration.”

Ngoya was surprised to have been put on academic probation and fully intends to exercise much less curiosity in the future.

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