Greenville College, Prof. Gerald Eichhoefer, and academic freedom...
The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. This is a basic principle of spiritual leadership and it applies to those God has called as fathers, pastors, elders, or professors who, by virtue of their calling, are required to watch over and guard immortal souls.
If you were a professor at a state university and Alfred Kinsey was a fellow faculty member, would you speak out, warning student's against him? Or would you protect your tenure by sitting silently as Kinsey did his private and public work of normalizing sexual perversion?
Let's make the question harder. Say you were a professor, not at a secular university but a Christian college--say Westmont, Gordon, Wheaton, Taylor, or Covenant. And the colleague in question was not a zoology professor who was publishing studies that purported to show that sexual perversion was much more common than previously thought. Rather, it was a Bible professor who lectured and wrote books opposing the Scriptural doctrine of father-rule. Would you publicly warn students against him and seek to have him removed from his tenured position? Would you work to inform your students' parents that this man was undermining their son's and daughter's Biblical faith?
Let's turn up the heat even more. Say this same Bible professor not only attacked the Biblical doctrine of father-rule publicly, but was widely known on campus to have been involved in sexual immorality with one of his female students who had had an abortion but, from shame, was unwilling to testify against the professor. If you knew the story was true, would you take it to the administration for their action?
Reform is hard work and reformers frequently die bloody deaths, so if you answered "no" to any of the previous questions I commend your honesty and fully understand how the self-preservation instinct has led to your silence.
Occasionally, though, God blesses a home, church, or college with a faithful shepherd who, in the power of the Holy Spirit, is willing to die for his sheep. Such a man is my friend Professory Gerald (Jerry) Eichhoefer who, until recently, was a member of the faculty of Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois. Jerry gave up his life for his sheep when, in December of 2004, Greenville College's administration fired him as punishment for his work protecting Greenville's students.
For the previous two years, in addition to his duties as a professor of computer science, Jerry had been working to expose wolves who, under cover of faculty status in Greenville's Department of Philosophy and Religion, had been hard at work undermining the faith of their students. Jerry's work publicly exposing the department and its supporters infuriated the powers that be and led to his termination, although the administration disingenuously claimed that fiscal constraints were the reason for his departure.
Rarely do these stories end well, but two weeks ago Jerry got help from an unlikely place, the American Association of University Professors. The AAUP investigated Jerry's termination and released their findings in the May-June issue of Academe, a magazine published by the AAUP and circulated to its 44,000 members. The AAUP investigative committee's findings dealt a roundhouse blow to Greenville's administrators, faulting them for unfairly terminating Jerry in order to silence him. (Here's a brief piece on the Chronicle of Higher Education's news blog that summarizes the AAUP's action.)
The committee's report ran to fifteen thousand words, concluding with eight findings, the next to last (seventh) reading as follows:
While the stated grounds for the administration's termination of Professor Eichhoefer's tenured appointment were financial difficulties and unsatisfactory service, it is likely that the dismissal was, to some degree, a reaction to his dissentient activities, particularly his perceived lack of "supportiveness" for the administration. To the extent that the dismissal did constitute such a reaction, the administration not only displayed an unacceptably low tolerance for dissent, but it also violated Professor Eichhoefer's academic freedom.
It's strange to be rejoicing over any secular organization of university professors issuing a report that faults a college administration for, among other things, not placing a high enough value on academic freedom, but when that report is in defense of a godly professor who has used his position to defend innocent sheep against wicked professors and administrators, we fully understand Jerry appealing to Caesar and are pleased Caesar vindicated him.
Read the report yourself. It is eye-opening and should be required reading for anyone who anticipates teaching at a Christian school or college, or is already a paid professor of Christ at one of these institutions.