Support for Dr. John McAdams of Marquette University

I am a proud graduate of Marquette University (both undergraduate and graduate), and currently serve as an adjunct instructor in the accounting program. I love my alma mater deeply, but I cannot stand by and watch the treatment of Dr. John McAdams over the last year without saying something.

More than a year ago, Dr. McAdams criticized Cheryl Abbate, who was the instructor for a Theory of Ethics class at Marquette. A firestorm ensued, and Abbate claimed that the criticism by Dr. McAdams was bullying. She allegedly got hateful emails… not from Dr. McAdams, but from third parties he appears to have had no direct involvement with.

Dr. McAdams was then suspended, a move I believed was retaliatory and inappropriate. Although he was suspended with pay, all of his classes were canceled and he was instructed that he was not to be on campus at any time.

After more than a year, Marquette University finally concluded its “investigation” of Dr. McAdams and issued an ultimatum. All of this nonsense required more than a year, and resulted in a 123 page report on the matter. President Michael Lovell said in his letter that the committee investigating made a unanimous recommendation that Dr. McAdams be suspended without pay from April 1, 2016 through the Fall 2016 semester.

And then Dr. Lovell took it one step further. According to Dr. McAdams, the committee only recommended the suspension. Mr. Lovell added that Dr. McAdams will only be allowed to return as faculty in January 2017 if he makes the following statement:

• Your acknowledgement and acceptance of the unanimous judgment of the peers who served on the Faculty Hearing Committee.
• Your affirmation and commitment that your future actions and behavior will adhere to the standards of higher education as defined in the Marquette University Faculty Handbook, Mission Statement and Guiding Values.
• Your acknowledgement that your November 9, 2014, blog post was reckless and incompatible with the mission and values of Marquette University and you express deep regret for the harm suffered by our former graduate student and instructor, Ms. Abbate.

The administration knows that Dr. McAdams will never make those statements. It would be dishonest for him to state that he did something reckless when he did not. It appears to me that Marquette University is trying to weasel their way out of this situation. They can say they were willing to keep a tenured faculty member…. it was his choice to not make the statements that would allow him to keep his job.

Dr. McAdams commented:

It is bizarre that Lovell can invoke Marquette’s “guiding values” to contravene the black letter guarantees of academic freedom embodied in University Statues.

Is free speech a “guiding value” of Marquette? Apparently not. Is protecting students who want to argue for Catholic teaching about marriage from bullying a “guiding value” of Marquette? Apparently, it’s not either. The Philosophy Department treated the student with hostility when he complained. Marquette had no problem with that. Not only was Abbate not even admonished that she had erred, it was conveyed to her that she had done nothing wrong.

It is interesting that the committee also concluded that suspending Dr. McAdams and banishing him from campus violated the faculty statutes and denied him due process. That wasn’t mentioned by Dr. Lovell.

Today Dr. McAdams responded. He will not be issuing an apology. From the press release:

Today, Professor John McAdams sent a response to Marquette President Michael Lovell’s demand that McAdams admit that his actions were reckless and incompatible with Marquette’s mission and values – or be fired. McAdams is refusing to compromise his principles by admitting something he believes to be wrong.

This all began when McAdams wrote a blog post critical of a graduate instructor at Marquette who told an undergraduate student that expressing opposition to gay marriage was homophobic and would not be tolerated in her class. After the instructor started receiving hate mail, Marquette summarily suspended McAdams and banned him from campus without following the required procedure.

The university then initiated formal proceedings to discipline McAdams. President Lovell has now stated that he is suspending McAdams without pay and will fire McAdams unless he signs a letter by April 4 acknowledging that his blog post was “reckless” and expressing “deep regret for the harm suffered” by Abbate. Despite his claims that he is merely imposing the faculty committee’s recommendation, the committee recommended only the suspension. President Lovell’s subsequent public statement claims that McAdams “inflicted” a “personal attack” on the graduate instructor, which is simply not true. McAdams’ blog post was critical, but neither rude nor incendiary. Lovell is trying to make McAdams vicariously responsible for the actions of others over whom he has no control. Despite his claims otherwise, that is the only ground Lovell is relying on to punish McAdams.

The letter to Dr. Lovell can be found here.

How sad that Marquette University can treat a respected, tenured faculty member in this manner. I stand with Dr. McAdams not only because free speech is important, but also because I do not believe he did anything wrong. He should not have been suspended, and he should not be required to give a dishonest apology in order to be reinstated. I am ashamed at how Marquette University is treating Dr. McAdams, and I cannot stand by quietly.

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