Friday, April 22, 2016

Marquette’s Hypocritical Claim to Care For Students

From Rick Esenberg, on Right Wisconsin:
Cura Personalis is a Latin phrase that translates as “Care for the Whole Person.” Marquette uses the term to claim that it will support each student based on their unique talents, challenges, needs and possibilities. But does Marquette practice what it preaches?

This question brings us to the controversy surrounding Marquette’s suspension and termination of Professor John McAdams. Little attention has been paid to the heart of the story: a complaint by a Marquette undergraduate about his Marquette Instructor. How did cura personalis apply to this student?

The student came to Professor McAdams with a complaint about the way he was treated by his philosophy instructor and the way his complaint was handled by Marquette administrators. His instructor, Cheryl Abbate, made it clear to him that expressing opposition to gay marriage was not just mistaken but “homophobic” and “offensive.” As such his views would not be tolerated. There is no dispute about this. The exchange was recorded. The Instructor informed her student that his traditional Catholic beliefs were beyond the pale.

Although the University refers to Ms. Abbate as a “student,” she was a paid employee of the University responsible for delivering a required philosophy course and grading the students who took it. In fact, she invoked her authority as a “professor of ethics” when talking to this student. Her treatment of her student was anything but an exercise of cura personalis.

The student complained to Dr. Susanne Foster in the College of Arts & Sciences, and was sent to the Philosophy Department where he spoke with then-chair Dr. Nancy Snow and Dr. Sebastian Luft. Neither Dr. Snow nor Dr. Luft took any action on behalf of the student. In fact, Dr. Snow referred to him as an “insolent little twerp” in a communication with the College of Arts & Sciences. What Dr. Snow did do was communicate immediately with Ms. Abbate to tell her, in essence, that they had her back. Dr. Snow reported to Ms. Abbate that she told the student that he “needed to change his attitude” and that she would be “monitoring” the situation. Dr. Snow told Ms. Abbate to let her know if the student did anything that Ms. Abbate found objectionable. Ms. Abbate thanked Dr. Snow and said that hopefully the student learned that “oppressive discourse is not acceptable.”

So what we have thus far is the administration at the university calling an undergraduate student names behind his back and circling the wagons against the undergraduate.

But it gets worse. The student returned to Arts and Sciences and spoke to Associate Dean James South. Dr. South recorded the interview without the student’s knowledge or consent. The recording shows that Dr. South lied to the student, telling him he had not listened to the student’s recording of the conversation with Ms. Abbate even though he had. Subsequently, in explaining why he did not tell the truth, Dr. South said that he had “used [his] prudential judgment to try to keep him [the student] at ease.” In other words, he could dismiss the student’s concerns if he pretended not to know the facts.

No one in the University Administration has ever addressed the student’s complaint or publicly (or privately to the student) expressed any concern for the way the student was treated. Dean of Arts & Sciences Richard Holz and President Lovell are both aware of all of these facts and have done nothing. The only person at Marquette who did stand up for the student was Professor McAdams. For this he was suspended, banished from campus and is going to be fired.

And that brings us back to academic freedom. This demonstrates why robust protection of free expression is required. The student has conservative Catholic views that are unpopular with many. Ms. Abbate was part of the faculty with contrary views. Marquette believes that an instructor was entitled to be protected from accurate criticism. It apparently believes the undergraduate student deserved to be told that his views could not be expressed in polite society.

Freedom of speech is an essential remedy for hypocrisy. Sadly, Marquette does not understand that.
Esenberg is the President and General Counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, and head of the legal team representing us in our battle with Marquette.

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Blogger Unknown said...

I can't seem to get past the “insolent little twerp” comment. There's a very upset mother out there somewhere. The fact that Marquette is excusing and condoning the reckless behavior of Dr. Snow, and the recording of an undergraduate student without his knowledge (while annihilating said student for recording the conversation with Abbate in the first place) is completely beyond my comprehension. The blatant lack of care for this undergrad student is deplorable. My kids will set foot on Marquette's campus "when hell freezes over." Lovell and Myers need their walking papers, pronto.

9:50 AM  
Blogger BuckeyeCat said...

"Insolent little twerp," indeed. Was it not Dr. Lovell publicly wringing his hands in a plea for "decency"? This concerned his offended sensibilities when--in his creative rendition--Dr. McAdams was portrayed as responsible for inflicting inconceivably grave verbal abuse on the victimized student teaching assistant. Again, where is his acknowledgement of the university's ill-advised, stratosphericlly high level of unprofessional conduct towards its undergrad student? How telling is the tired rhetoric of "oppressive" speech. She has been thoroughly indoctrinated. The genuine task of philosophy in challenging the unexamined assumptions of each person in class would, I think, blow the circuitry of her mind. In appealing to her authority as instructor, she engaged in what Aquinas pointed out as the obvious: the appeal to authority is the weakest form of argument. The Philosophy Department has declined miserably even since I was a student there. Keep the women and children safe. Avoid the the place when selecting a college.

10:26 PM  

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