Marquette University has delayed the termination of Associate Professor John McAdams, opting to suspend him without pay through the fall 2016 semester, but University President Dr. Michael Lovell is demanding an apology from McAdams as a condition of getting his job back over his November 2014 blog post criticizing a graduate student instructor who bullied a student for arguing against same-sex marriage.
McAdams said in a recent radio interview that he’ll apologize, “When hell freezes over.”
The blog post in question sparked national headlines and a heated debate about academic freedom following the University’s disciplinary actions against McAdams for exposing the philosophy instructor’s recorded comments. The instructor, Cheryl Abbate, told a student who was arguing against the acceptance of same-sex marriage that “you don’t have a right in this class to make homophobic comments,” calling the student’s position offensive and “not appropriate.”
McAdams was suspended from his tenured faculty position, banned from campus and later told he would be fired for publicizing the name of the graduate student instructor, Abbate, who received a number of nasty and negative comments from the public in reaction to the story.
On Holy Thursday last week, Lovell issued a statement that he plans to implement the recommendation of a Faculty Hearing Committee regarding the University’s dispute with McAdams. “While I cannot provide specific details of the recommendation because it relates to a personnel matter,” he said, “I can assure you that my decision has been guided by Marquette University’s values and is solely based on Professor McAdams’ actions, and not political or ideological views expressed in his blog.”
In a post on his Marquette Warrior blog on Holy Saturday, McAdams revealed that Lovell sent a letter to him stating, “I have decided to accept your fellow faculty members’ recommendation to suspend you without pay. Your suspension without pay will begin April 1, 2016, and continue through the Fall 2016 semester.”
Lovell continued in the letter to McAdams: “In addition, your return to the faculty on January 17, 2017, for the Spring 2017 semester is conditioned upon you delivering a written statement to the President’s Office by April 4, 2016, the details of which are contained later in this letter.”
According to McAdams, the details of the statement he must submit include, “[A]cknowledgement 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.”
Lovell stated that McAdams must also acknowledge and accept “the unanimous judgment of the peers who served on the Faculty Hearing Committee,” and pledge that his “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.”
“These demands are reminiscent of the Inquisition, in which victims who ‘confessed’ they had been consorting with Satan and spreading heresy would be spared execution,” wrote McAdams.
McAdams also called Lovell “downright dishonest” for only mentioning the recommendations of the Faculty Hearing Committee in his statement when the faculty report, which is confidential, “mentioned nothing about demanding any apology.”
“I think Marquette added that simply knowing that I would not apologize, and that was their tactic for trying to fire me,” McAdams said in a radio interview on the Charlie Sykes Show.
“I’m certainly not going to apologize,” he said. “My guess is that they fire me because I didn’t apologize, and then it goes to court.”
“I don’t think Marquette particularly minds [going to court],” said McAdams, “because it’s Marquette’s money they’re spending. … They’re probably willing to spend a lot of Marquette’s money in litigation in an attempt to get rid of me.” And by “Marquette’s money,” McAdams was referring to the tuition dollars paid by parents and students, and donations intended to support educational initiatives at the University.
The whole episode shows, “Marquette does not respect academic freedom, at least for any professor that causes them embarrassment by outing things at Marquette that look bad to the general public,” according to McAdams.
On his blog, the professor argued that “the ploy” of demanding and apology and signing a loyalty oath “is absolutely transparent, and won’t mitigate the realization that Marquette is an intolerant, politically correct institution whose ‘Catholic mission’ is nothing but a marketing gimmick.”
The Cardinal Newman Society has supported the academic freedom of McAdams throughout his skirmish with the University, and has praised the professor for exposing many of the Catholic identity abuses at Marquette on his blog.
The Newman Society has documented numerous Catholic identity abuses at Marquette over the years. In January, the Newman Society reported on a meeting of faculty of staff at Marquette who are concerned about the University’s dwindling Catholic identity and the increased occurrences of Catholic teaching being discouraged, and even silenced, in University settings.
“The most urgent issue concerned academic freedom and how the articulation of Catholic teaching, inside and outside of the classroom, particularly on issues of sexuality, is increasingly met with disapproval and even hostility,” according to one of the attendees.
Much of the meeting focused on Title IX, broadened under the Obama administration to include gender identity protection.
“How can a theology professor not talk about the Church’s teaching on human sexuality?” a participant asked during the forum, according to the meeting minutes. “But, under Title IX, any student who claims to take offense at what is heard in the classroom can anonymously report the professor and cause him or her a world of problems. This is hugely intimidating.”
McAdams told the Newman Society at the time, “If anything you say in class could have you dragged before someone from Human Resources or a department chair or dean with a demand that you explain what you said,” less faculty and staff will feel comfortable expressing Catholic values and beliefs.
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