Kenneth Howell, an adjunct at the University of Illinois offering courses on Catholic moral and social thought, has not had his contract renewed after a student complained about this e-mail that Howell sent to his class. I imagine any philosopher reading the e-mail can see a legitimate reason for terminating Howell's contract, namely, that his characterization of utilitarianism and the quality of reasoning and argument are incompetent. (Really, the kind of reasoning in Howell's e-mail would be unacceptable in a student paper, it really is a bit shocking to see this being offered as the professor's "explanation" of the issues. Even allowing that it's an e-mail, it is amazingly bad.) But according to news reports, that may not have been the reason he was terminated. Instead, it appears his contract was not rewewed because a student complained who thought his teaching of standard Catholic doctrine about homosexuality was "hate speech." On this thin factual record, this does look like a violation of Howell's academic freedom, as the AAUP President remarks in the original article. (Legally, he probably has no remedy, however, given that adjuncts are 'at will' employees.) I do wonder, though, what the facts are about what really goes on in Howell's classroom. If the "arguments" offered in class were at the absurdly low level of the material in the e-mail, then I imagine that over the course of a term this could look more like proseltyzing than teaching the doctrines of a sectarian tradition.
UPDATE: Howell's lawyers give their version of events here. On those facts, it looks like a colorable First Amendment claim.
ANOTHER: Comments towards the end of this news item suggest the e-mail incident may have been the tip of an iceberg. We will see what, if anything, comes to light. The University certainly seems correct to ask for a review of the matter with an eye to academic freedom issues.