Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Marquette: Campus Free Speech Worst Offender List

Marquette University has distinguished itself as one of the top ten in the country.

Unfortunately, it's not an honorable distinction. It's a disgrace.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) includes Marquette on its annual list of the top 10 threats to free speech on campus.

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, writes:

Marquette University's chilling campaign to revoke the tenure of political science professor John McAdams due to writings on his private blog ensures its place on this year's list. McAdams criticized a graduate instructor for what he viewed as her inappropriate suppression of certain viewpoints for in-class discussion (one student's opposition to same-sex marriage in particular), and the instructor came in for heavy criticism. Marquette then suspended McAdams without due process and abruptly cancelled his classes for the next semester. It also publicly insinuated that McAdams violated its harassment policy and was a safety threat to the campus, despite a complete lack of proof for either charge. Marquette's disregard of due process and its incredible denial that its campaign against McAdams's tenure implicates free speech or academic freedom in any way should frighten anyone concerned about faculty rights. Indeed, if the university succeeds in removing McAdams, free speech and academic freedom will lose whatever meaning they had at Marquette.
M.D. Kittle provides an update on John McAdams and Marquette's assault on academic freedom.
Now McAdams’ professional fate, in large part, rests in the hands of a jury of his peers presiding over one of the more intriguing speech- and academic-freedom cases to confront a U.S. college campus.

“Well . . . the limbo is not good, but I am still collecting my salary, and my fringe benefits, so I’m not in huge distress,” McAdams wrote in a recent email to Wisconsin Watchdog.

McAdams says he’s hoping for the best from Marquette’s Faculty Hearing Committee, but if the advisory panel decides the administration should cut the professor’s tenure and fire him, McAdams says his next step will be a lawsuit.

...“My lawyer thinks it’s unlikely that, even if things go my way, that I’ll be restored to my normal status by this coming fall semester,” McAdams said.

His lawyer is Rick Esenberg, founder and president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, or WILL, a Milwaukee-based public interest law firm.

The controversy isn’t a First Amendment question per se, Esenberg has said. Private institutions can fire whom they please. But the veteran professor is protected by a contract, which in turn protects faculties’ academic freedom — principally speech.

“Their contract says you can’t be terminated for speech that would otherwise be protected by the U.S. Constitution. Marquette has obligated itself, and I think wisely, to academic expression. Now it’s time to live up to that commitment,” Esenberg said in a February Wisconsin Watchdog story.

But it appears Marquette, or at least its administration, is sticking to its guns.

Marquette President Michael R. Lovell has said he will not disclose further details of the proceedings until all “procedures required under university rules and policies are complete.”

“As our president notes, the decisions here have everything to do with our Guiding Values and expectations of conduct toward each other and nothing to do with academic freedom, freedom of speech, or same-sex marriage,” wrote Marquette spokesman Brian Dorrington in an email to Wisconsin Watchdog. “Debate and intense discussion are at the heart of who we are as a university, but they must be balanced with respect.”

Lovell said he doesn’t believe McAdams was being collegial when he wrote on his blog that philosophy teaching assistant Cheryl Abbate should have spent more time addressing varying opinions on gay marriage instead of dismissing them as “homophobic” and shutting them down.
Although this is not a new story and McAdams has been lingering in this limbo for months and months now, I still find it hard to grasp. I can't believe that Marquette has lurched to the Left so radically in an effort to be politically correct, destroying free speech on campus in the process. It's an unbelievably poor choice.

Lovell claims "the decisions here have everything to do with [Marquette's] Guiding Values and expectations of conduct toward each other and nothing to do with academic freedom, freedom of speech, or same-sex marriage."

That, of course, is ridiculous. McAdams' conduct was not out of line. His criticism of Abbate was completely legitimate and reasonable. What is out of line is Marquette holding McAdams personally responsible for the inappropriate behavior of others.

I am truly disgusted by what Marquette has become.

Lovell's first year as president of the university has been a disaster.

He has permitted the stifling of speech that gives voice to Catholic teaching, muzzling a student, and attempted to fire McAdams for merely sharing the story of an instructor's inappropriate behavior on campus.


Lovell's leadership is damaging Marquette. That's a matter that should be addressed and soon.

If Marquette continues down this road, we will continue to withhold our financial support. We wouldn't consider giving the university a dime until McAdams is allowed back on campus and teaching again.

At present, I would never recommend Marquette University to any prospective students.

That's so very sad.

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