Thursday, April 07, 2016

Wall Street Journal on Marquette Attempt to Fire Warrior Blogger

In the important national outlet, the Wall Street Journal:
Punished for Blogging at Marquette

A tenured professor faces dismissal after a blog went viral.

Blogging can be dangerous to your livelihood—or at least it can at Marquette University, where a professor may lose his job for expressing the wrong political views.

In November 2014 an undergraduate approached philosophy instructor and PhD candidate Cheryl Abbate, after a class on John Rawls’ theory of equal liberty. The student said he objected to her suggestions during the class that same-sex marriage isn’t open for debate and that “everyone agrees on this.”

Unknown to Ms. Abbate, the student recorded the exchange on his cell phone. During the conversation, she told him “there are some opinions that are not appropriate, that are harmful, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions” and if someone in the class was homosexual, “don’t you think that that would be offensive to them if you were to raise your hand and challenge this?”

When the student replied that he has a right to argue his opinion, Ms. Abbate responded that “you can have whatever opinions you want but I can tell you right now, in this class homophobic comments, racist comments and sexist comments will not be tolerated. If you don’t like that you are more than free to drop this class.” The student reported the exchange to Marquette professor John McAdams, who teaches political science. Mr. McAdams also writes a blog called the Marquette Warrior, which often criticizes the Milwaukee school for failing to act in accordance with its Catholic mission.

Mr. McAdams wrote on his blog that Ms. Abbate was “using a tactic typical among liberals now. 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.” His blog went viral, and Ms. Abbate received vicious emails. She has since left Marquette.

But now Marquette is going after Mr. McAdams. In December 2014, the school sent him a letter suspending his teaching duties and banning him from campus while it reviewed his “conduct” related to the blog post. “You are to remain off campus during this time, and should you need to come to campus, you are to contact me in writing beforehand to explain the purpose of your visit, to obtain my consent and to make appropriate arrangements for that visit,” Dean Richard Holz wrote.

Marquette President Michael Lovell told the tenured professor that he would be suspended without pay and would not be reinstated unless he admitted his conduct was “reckless” and apologized for the unpleasant emails Ms. Abbate received.

All of this seems contrary to Marquette’s Faculty Handbook section 306.03, which says professors may be terminated by the university’s discretion only for “serious instances of illegal, immoral, dishonorable, irresponsible, or incompetent conduct.” The handbook says that “in no case” may just cause for dismissal be interpreted “to impair the full and free enjoyment of legitimate personal or academic freedoms of thought, doctrine, discourse, association, advocacy, or action.”

Mr. McAdams told Mr. Lovell this week that he won’t participate in the “compelled speech” demanded by the university by April 14 in exchange for reinstatement. This is more a test of Marquette and its ostensible free-speech principles than it is Mr. McAdams.
Marquette continues to take a beating in the press for its actions. Just how long are they willing to look like politically correct authoritarians? Given their behavior so far, they seem committed to firing this blogger no matter what the cost. Lovell’s almost hysterical tantrum, posted last week, reinforces this idea. Several people have noted that no competent lawyer, nor any competent public relations professional, would have approved it had they vetted it.

But given that courts will enforce the contractual right of academic freedom Marquette faculty have, this looks like it will be the institution’s Vietnam: a costly and humiliating defeat.

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