Professor of Economics on University’s Dismissal of Professor Stephen J. McKenna

By Dr. Ernest M. Zampelli

Statement of Dr. Ernest M. Zampelli, Emeritus Professor of Economics, to the Faculty Assembly Regarding the University’s Dismissal of Professor Stephen J. McKenna

In my almost 35 years at CUA as faculty member, department chair, president of the academic senate, and member of a seemingly endless number of senate and university committees, I have never witnessed a more shameful action by the University’s administration than its dismissal and deliberate public humiliation of Professor Stephen McKenna. His was not a case of sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or of creating a hostile work environment. This was a consensual relationship, begun in a time of emotional fragility. Yes, it crossed a boundary. That is indisputable. That boundary issue, however, disappeared after several months—the relationship lasted for four years, with plans for marriage in the Catholic Church. This was not “moral turpitude” as President Garvey insistently maintained. And though the committee concluded that the violation was one for which dismissal could be appropriate, it in fact unanimously supported a sanction other than dismissal. The nagging question then is why the President and Provost pushed for the dismissal of Professor McKenna. I do not believe it is hyperbole to suggest that they were motivated in part by the fact that Professor McKenna often, and openly, questioned and criticized University policies, procedures, and decisions. In short, it would be naïve and disingenuous on anyone’s part to dismiss the possibility that the University’s actions were retaliatory, plain and simple.

However, whether someone believes the dismissal decision was appropriate punishment or not, no one who values decency can condone, in any way, the deplorable public shaming executed by the University in publishing, on its homepage, the details of the case involving Professor McKenna. It is imperative that the faculty, in the strongest possible unified voice and language, condemn the University’s contemptible action and demand that the University President and Provost be held accountable.

5 thoughts on “Professor of Economics on University’s Dismissal of Professor Stephen J. McKenna”

  1. I wholeheartedly support Dr. Zampelli’s critique of the University Administration for their callous and deliberate destruction of the reputation of a long-time and respected faculty member at CUA.
    At a time when horrendous sexual abuse has taken place and then is still being uncovered against vulnerable children, adults and religious within the Catholic Church, it is totally inappropriate to viciously go after an individual who was involved in a consensual relationship with another individual on campus. One can certainly question the appropriateness of such a weighted relationship but the action taken far exceeded the infraction.
    Theodore McCarrick has finally been laicised by the Pope for his many years of sexual abuse of children and seminarians in the shadows of CUA. Perhaps the University Administration would do better to examine their own motives and begin to address their own failures.
    Mary Dancy
    CUA BA, 2008

  2. I’m devastated to learn that Professor McKenna has been dismissed from CUA. I had the wonderful experience of working in the media studies program as a visiting professor while he was chair. Professor McKenna was always a supportive and professional colleague who took his supervisory role seriously. He is a sharp thinker and a thoughtful teacher. It’s incredibly disappointing to see the university use a consensual relationship as a pretext for dismissing him from the university.

  3. This is just appalling. The Catholic church/organization as a whole would be in a much better place if it dealt as harshly with pedophile priests as it did with a highly respected faculty member who had a long term consensual romantic relationship with another adult. You’d think they could have simply have transferred him to another Catholic university…

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