I really like the young guys and girls at GOP 3.com, some of whom have beenconducting a campaign, to dissuade classmates from taking a course offered by Fr. Simon Harak. I think it's worth some discussion. I'll assume that the public statements and political activities highlighted by the bloggers (and by Professor McAdams at Marquette Warrior) are representative of Fr. Harak's non-academic activities. To my ear, they reflect a certain truculent softmindedness. Fr. Harak sounds like the kind of guy who, having rejected one set of simplistic pieties, embraces another. More succinctly, his politics seem silly.
But isn't the real question what he does in the classroom? I am sure that there are plenty of people who think my politics are misbegotten but what I do in class is not a reprise of this blog or other non-academic writing and speaking that I may do. In class, I have a responsibility to ensure that all serious arguments are thoroughly explored. I make a point of telling students that I routinely give "A"s to people who subscribe to (and argue well for) positions that I think are wrong.
It may well be that Harak does not do that. The "Center for Peacemaking" that he directs certainly does not sound like it is a place for activism and is not intended for serious study of what does and does not lead to peace.
But I am not enthusiastic about judging a teacher by the positions that he or she takes outside the classroom. Some times, as with Kevin Barrett's views on 9-11, outside activities suggest that someones capacity for critical thought is seriously impaired. On the other hand, Noam Chomsky is apparently a brilliant linguist even if his political writings suggest, at best, a 40 watt bulb.
Maybe there are some views that are so reprehensible as to exclude someone from the university. But I'd prefer to err in favor of permitting a broad swath of opinion.
Fr. Harak is teaching an introductory Theology course. Isn't the better approach to challenge him to fairly introduce (as he may already plan to do) even those important theological perspectives with which he may disagree?
Students certainly have a right to criticize faculty. But people with whom we disagree - even strongly - may turn out to be very good teachers.