UPDATED 20/2: Monash University has released a second statement following revelations Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen is still affiliated with the university in an adjunct, unpaid role and remains on the institution’s staff directory.
“Dr Shimon Cowen is not employed at Monash. He holds an adjunct/honorary role (unpaid) in his field of research expertise – Jewish philosophy and theology – which is why he is listed in the staff directory,” a Monash media spokeswoman told the Star Observer this afternoon.
“Monash University is home to freedom of expression amongst our diverse staff and student population and encourages expert academic views, however, Dr Shimon Cowen is not commenting on behalf of the University or the Faculty of Arts and the University does not endorse his comments.
“Monash University reiterates its respect for the dignity of all human beings, regardless of sexual preference.”
UPDATED 17/2: Monash University has released a statement saying it does not wish to comment on Rabbi Cowen’s views because he is no longer an associate at Monash University and was not an associate at the time he wrote his opinion piece. Cowen claims at the end of his article for the Australian Family Association that he is an associate of the Monash School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies.
Staff from Monash University have called on their employer to reject “bigoted” claims by a Melbourne rabbi and university associate that a government funded anti-homophobic bullying scheme is teaching “moral wrong”.
In an open letter today, Monash Education Faculty Members Against Homophobia said the university also needs to review the appointment of Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen (pictured), an associate academic of the Monash School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, following his comments that anti-bullying initiative Safe Schools Coalition Victoria (SSCV) is “unethical” because it teaches children about homosexuality which goes against the word of God.
Monash Faculty of Education senior lecturer Dr Joel Windle told the Star Observer Cowen’s views fly in the face of accepted science that homosexuality is not a disorder.
“We think his views are harmful to young people and enormously damaging and that that harm is real,” he said.
“It’s too easy just to say he’s free to express his opinion… the views he holds have serious consequences.”
Nine senior Monash education staff have put their names to the statement sent to Monash’s Vice Chancellor Professor Ed Byrne saying they were “disturbed” by Cowen’s views and slamming his arguments as “unscholarly”.
“Cowen mounts a bigoted argument against programs which target homophobic bullying in schools. He asserts that opposition to homosexuality dates from “the dawn of time”, and that homosexuality is a mental illness,” staff said.
“He further claims that acceptance of homosexuality in schools is abnormal, unethical, unconstitutional, and psychologically damaging. Cowen’s views are based on neither historical record nor credible scientific literature.”
“We condemn the uninformed opinions expressed by Cowen, which are foreign to the goals, values, and standards of scholarship we proudly represent as researchers and teacher educators. Such views are also profoundly damaging to the young people in schools Cowen seeks to influence.”
Staff also said they were concerned Cowen’s views will reflect badly on the university.
“We call on Monash University to distance itself from homophobia, reaffirm the values of tolerance and inclusivity upon which it prides itself, and explain what positive contribution Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen’s affiliation makes to our institution,” staff said.
Cowen’s remarks were published in the Australian Family Association journal and have been rejected by SSCV, gay Jewish support group Aleph and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).
The Star Observer has contacted the university for comment.