Marquette University administration looks to fire conservative tenured prof

The controversy over a blog posting by Marquette University professor John McAdams continues, as the administration informed the conservative professor that they would seek to revoke his tenure and fire him.

McAdams published a blog on his Marquette Warrior site highlighting an incident in an ethics class where the grad student teaching the class told a student not to express his anti-gay marriage views because it may offend some people.  McAdams called the instructor out for stifling free speech and academic freedom, which resulted in some nasty e-mails to the grad student.

The administration took the view that McAdams was responsible for the unhinged response to the instructor.  What happened next is incredible:

On December 16, Richard C. Holz, dean of Marquette’s Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, suspended McAdams. The suspension letter stated that Marquette was “continuing to review [McAdams’s] conduct” and ordered him not to enter the Marquette campus except with advance permission from the university. Holz did not inform McAdams of any alleged policy violations justifying the suspension, as Marquette’s faculty policies require. Marquette later claimed in public statements that McAdams was “under review” and had not been suspended, claiming that its “definition of suspension is without pay”—which is also contradicted by Marquette policies governing faculty suspension. On December 18, Marquette cancelled McAdams’s spring semester classes.

In a January 2 letter, Holz told McAdams that he “had no justification to put [the] graduate student’s name in [his] internet posts” and informed him that as a result of his doing so, Abbate had received harassing and threatening letters and emails and had decided to transfer to another doctoral program. Marquette publicly justified McAdams’s continued suspension and ban from campus by claiming that “[t]he safety of [Marquette’s] students and campus community is [its] top priority.” Though it had not charged McAdams with any conduct violations, Marquette further stated that it “does not tolerate harassment and will not stand for faculty members subjecting students to any form of abuse, putting them in harm’s way.”

In a January 30 letter calling for McAdams’s immediate reinstatement, FIRE cautioned Marquette that unilaterally suspending McAdams for the opinions expressed on his blog violated his freedom of speech and academic freedom. FIRE also pointed out Marquette’s multiple violations of faculty policies, noted its public insinuations that McAdams constituted a threat to campus safety, and highlighted the severe threat to free speech posed by Marquette’s claim that McAdams was directly culpable for the actions of unknown individuals who allegedly harassed or threatened Abbate after reading his blog.

“A fundamental principle of our society is that you aren’t responsible for how unrelated and possibly unhinged third parties react to your speech,” said FIRE’s Shibley. “Marquette’s disgraceful argument is no different in principle from saying that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were somehow to blame for their own deaths.”

So despite repeatedly violating  the school's policies, administration officials are upping the ante in their vendetta against McAdams by seeking his ouster.  If you're not allowed to call out others teaching at your university for egregious violations of free speech, what's the point of academic freedom – especially since the administration is making the patently ridiculous claim that the action planned against McAdams has nothing to do with those issues?

"It’s madness to claim that Marquette’s case against McAdams has ‘nothing to do’ with his academic freedom and free speech rights. You could hardly have a more direct attack on both freedoms than the one Marquette is mounting,” said Peter Bonilla, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “If a professor can be fired for being less civil in pedagogical debates than administrators would prefer, freedom in the academy is simply nonexistent.”

Marquette is nominally a Catholic university, so the notion that Catholics on campus cannot express the tenets of their faith and oppose gay marriage is absurd.  The drive to achieve conformity of thought through threats and punitive actions isn't relegated to one college campus, of course.  It is a nationwide phenomenon that won't stop until parents and students wake up and demand changes.

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