John McAdams, Associate Professor of Political Science at Marquette University, is having some problems at the workplace.
Provost John Pauly, interim Arts and Sciences Dean Phil Rossi, and Political Science Department Chair Barry McCormick claim to be troubled by "ongoing potential conflicts between [McAdams'] role as Marquette professor and employee, and independent blogger-journalist."
McAdams is the author of a conservative blog, Marquette Warrior. At times for Marquette, he's an inconvenient whistleblower.
Apparently, being a Marquette employee and being critical of Marquette officials and matters related to the university can have negative consequences.
In a March 30, 2011, blog post, McAdams details being harassed by Provost John Pauly.
Pauly claimed that contacting a student, Anahi Sanchez, who was the "Marquette contact" for information regarding upcoming performances of The Vagina Monologues on campus, was inappropriate. When an e-mail from McAdams to Sanchez went unanswered, her home phone number was found at Peoplefinders.com and a call was placed. The audacity!
Instead of just placing a phone call, you'd think someone had illegally been delving into her FBI file or digging through her private medical records.
Sánchez appears to have somehow felt aggrieved, since she complained to university officials (and eventually to Pauly), not that she has been harassed, but that she did not know whether we were trying to contact her in our role as a faculty member or our role as a blogger!
Eventually, McAdams was called to a meeting with Pauly, interim Arts & Sciences Dean Phil Rossi, and Political Science Department Chair Barry McCormick to discuss his activities as a faculty member and as a blogger.
McAdams details that meeting in an April 1, 2011, blog post.
The bottom line: all three – Pauly, Rossi and McCormick – want us to entirely stop blogging about student organizations.
Pauly claimed to have no problem with our blogging about faculty and administrators, but claimed our blogging about student affairs has been out of line. How much of this was a genuine concern (some of it probably was) and how much was the result of an ideological bias from liberal administrators toward a conservative blogger (there was almost certainly some of that too) we can’t say.
Two specific instances were mentioned. First, we called the listed home number of a student, talked to (apparently) her father and left a polite message asking for a return call, explaining that we were working on a blog post about The Vagina Monologues (the student was listed as the Marquette contact on vday.org). Apparently, the student’s parents freaked. All three administrators (Pauly, Rossi and McCormick) condemned the call saying that faculty should never call the parents of students. They said that the parents should have been in Fr. Wild’s office loudly complaining about it.
We replied that we were calling the listed number of the student (and had no way of knowing that she was living with her parents), and that’s it’s standard practice for a journalist to call a potential source at home. But Pauly, Rossi and McCormick explicitly stated that we should somehow have known that the parents would freak. We were accused of merely offering “rationalizations.”
All thee insisted that we don’t have any of the prerogatives of a journalist, since the role of a professor trumps that of a faculty blogger.
The other issue raised was the fact that we had mentioned a student’s research paper, and were accused of “criticizing” it. In reality, we did not mention the student’s name, and the point of the blog post was that “‘gender studies’ has been added to ‘women’s studies’ [which] signals a move toward a homosexual emphasis, as shown by one of the papers completed by a WGST fellow this summer . . . .” The blog post was, quite simply, a comment on the fact that the Women’s and Gender Studies program has begun to slip “queer studies” into the university.
...As the meeting moved on, Rossi and McCormick became more ad hominem, Rossi accusing us of having a “blind spot,” and McCormick asserting that nobody he knew felt that our blogging about student organizations was acceptable. Since we’ve gotten multiple supporting e-mails, that says more about McCormick’s circle of friends than about what “everybody believes.”
All three implied (and sometimes stated) that we had been guilty of some violation of professional ethics, but could not explain what that would be, beyond McCormick’s “sandbox” metaphor, and the general notion that faculty should never publicly say anything negative about a student, even a student in a very public role doing something controversial.
I don't understand why the student's parents "freaked" because someone from the university called their daughter with a legitimate question. I don't get why Pauly, Rossi, and McCormick think that would be grounds to run to Fr. Wild and complain.
It seems clear to me that there is an effort to silence McAdams, not because of some alleged violation of professional ethics but because he is voicing opinions that aren't in line with what "everybody believes."
This is particularly disturbing given the fact that about a year ago Marquette was embroiled in the Jodi O'Brien fiasco.
Marquette faculty members wailed about free speech and their academic freedom being at risk. They vowed not to "be silent until the integrity of our university is restored."
Where's the integrity in coming up with some lame excuses to silence McAdams?
Last spring, they saw Marquette as a hotbed of discrimination and censorship.
They organized protests.
Where are they now? Where's the concern? Where's the outrage?
McAdams explains that his role as a blogger is not at odds with his role as a professor.
Clearly, blogging is an academic activity, protected by the canons of academic freedom. Many academics have blogs, including those in the Marquette Law School, Mark Johnson in Theology, Matt Wion in Philosophy, and Steve Byers in Journalism. National blogs run by academics include Althouse, and The Volokh Conspiracy.
Virtually all academics have a legitimate interest in public affairs, including the internal politics of the institutions where they work. And blogging is a form of publication, although admittedly more like a newspaper op-ed that an article in a scholarly journal. But academics have a right to academic freedom in writing op-eds and articles for the popular press, as Marquette’s heretical theologian Dan Maguire demonstrates with great frequency.
But university bureaucrats don’t like being criticized, and especially don’t like being criticized by those supposedly “below” them in the hierarchy.
In spite of threats and harassment, McAdams isn't backing down.
They hung tough with the position that we should never comment on student affairs, and we were threatened by both Pauly and McCormick saying that we would “be here [in a meeting like this] again” if we persisted in blogging about the activities of student groups.
Needless to say, we will continue to blog about activities on campus, and when the actions of student organizations have substantial news interest, we will report them.
I'm extremely disappointed in the stance taken by Pauly, Rossi, and McCormick.
Their threats damage the integrity of the university.
I would hope that Marquette faculty members would rally in McAdams' defense.
I would hope that Marquette students and faculty alike would protest this assault on academic freedom.
Unfortunately, what they should do, the right thing, is probably not what they will do.
McAdams deserves the support of students, faculty, and alumni.
"We will be Warriors forever."