“It’s an issue of academic freedom,” she said. “This is a professor who was terminated for doing what he was hired to do.”
“He’s an astounding teacher,” she added, noting that Howell was always “very clear” about making distinctions between class material and personal opinions.
In addition to assisting with the administration of the Facebook page, Tan told CNA that she is helping with an alumni campaign to cease donations to the school unless Howell is allowed to return to his teaching position.
Tan said that she knew many alumni from the university who were interested in helping Howell. She and others have encouraged them to call the university’s fundraising offices and explain that they will not make any more donations to the university until the professor is reinstated.
So far, the campaign has been met with positive responses from alumni, she said.
Eli Lazar, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, is also working to raise awareness about Howell’s dismissal.
“A lot of students were upset about it,” he told CNA. Students wanted a tangible way to respond to the situation and help Howell, he said.
Lazar and a group of university students have been distributing fliers both on campus and in downtown Chicago. Keeping people informed is especially important in summertime, when many students have left campus, he said.
In addition to the fliers, he and his peers have written chalk messages on the university's “Quad” to direct people to the Facebook page.
Furthermore, Lazar told CNA there has been a call to boycott Department of Religion classes this fall if Dr. Howell is not reinstated. The classes offered by the department are often elective, so students are not required to take them.
“It’s our way of showing the university that we as students don’t want a censored version of life,” he explained. “We want to study real life.”
(Story continues below)
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So far, efforts have met with positive responses, Lazar continued.
“The support has been overwhelming,” he said, explaining that he has received the support of a wide variety of students, including Muslims and atheists, but has not yet seen any opposition to Howell’s reinstatement.
Response from the university administration has also been encouraging, he said. The administration has responded to emails, and the chancellor has called for a faculty committee to review the case.
Lazar said that he is hopeful that university officials will listen to the voices of the students and reinstate Howell. “I’m very confident,” he said.