Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cheryl Abbate Leaves Marquette

Cheryl Abbate, a graduate student and philosophy instructor, is leaving Marquette University.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A graduate student teaching assistant is leaving Marquette University after being publicly targeted by a tenured professor for her response to a student who wanted to argue against gay marriage in her ethics class, according to a national blog for philosophy professionals.

Teaching assistant Cheryl Abbate will transfer next month to the philosophy PhD program at the University of Colorado, Boulder, after being accepted through an expedited admissions process, according to the Daily Nous blog for philosophy professionals maintained by Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina.

Several sources independently confirmed that Abbate received "vile" emails and threats of physical harm after Marquette associate professor John McAdams accused her in a Nov. 9 post on his conservative-leaning Marquette Warrior blog of "using a tactic typical among liberals now" with the student.

"Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed 'offensive' and need to be shut up," he wrote.

The McAdams blog post captured national media attention and international attention from widely divergent groups: largely conservative free speech advocates supporting McAdams' right to blog his opinions and a student's right to argue against gay marriage in a class, and professors and teaching assistants who criticized McAdams for publicly calling out a graduate student and exposing her to political labeling and public condemnation.

...Weinberg said in his Daily Nous blog post that he had corresponded with Abbate, and she passed on the following: "Although the past month has been a very difficult and distressing time for me, the support and encouragement I have received from philosophers around the world has made this all the more bearable.

"I would like to thank each and every individual who sent a personal message to me, sent a letter to the Marquette administration on my behalf, and/or signed one of the online statements of support. ... Please know that your messages made all of the difference to me and I am truly touched and inspired by the concern and kindness demonstrated by those who took the time to reach out to me."
Karen Herzog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is painting Abbate as a victim rather than as an abusive instructor engaging in the harassment of a student.

The reality is Abbate did not conduct herself properly as an instructor. Yes, she's a student as well, but she's also in a position of authority. She needs to be held accountable her actions.

It's no surprise that Herzog depicts McAdams as a cruel conservative, but it is disturbing that she seems to suggest that McAdams deserves blame for the "'vile' emails and threats of physical harm" Abbate received.


While the extreme negativity sent Abbate's way was totally out of line, the product of sick individuals, McAdams certainly cannot be held responsible for the actions of others.

McAdams appropriately revealed an incident on campus in a blog post. He didn't misrepresent what happened.

It was right for McAdams to inform the public, especially Marquette donors, about the utterly unacceptable assault on the free exchange of ideas in Abbate's classroom.

Marquette President Michael Lovell owes Marquette donors an explanation about why he failed to stand up for the student's right to engage in discussion that's in line with the Catholic Church. Why did he allow the student to be abused and silenced? Why is Lovell permitting McAdams to be harassed?

It's absolutely unacceptable.

I say that as a former donor.

I strongly urge other Marquette donors to withhold their support from the university.

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