From Rick Esenberg on Right Wisconsin
A recent report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the Faculty Hearing Report involving Marquette’s sanction of Professor John McAdams for speaking his mind “suggests” a pattern of “bullying” by Professor John McAdams. This is, in a word, preposterous. It is a claim that can be indulged only by those who mistake debate for assault and criticism for violence.
Indeed, it is not clear that any human being — someone speaking in the active rather than passive voice — is even making such an allegation. The FHC Report itself did not use the term and the newspaper hedges its bets by use of the term “suggests.”
Let’s begin by clearing some deadwood. The charges against John McAdams did not involve any incidents other than a blog post about an exchange between an undergraduate student and a Philosophy instructor. For that reason, other matters were not fully explored in the faculty committee hearing. Lawyers tend not to spend a great deal of time on matters that are not at issue. It’s a bit like herding cats.
Indeed, by focusing on these other incidents, the FHC demonstrated its bias in a particularly revealing way. No matter what lip service they may give to the value of gadflies, its members obviously don’t think much of Professor McAdams and his audacity in criticizing the university. McAdams has been a critic of the dominant views on campus and the dominant forces decided to strike back. The Abbate incident was taken as an opportunity to get rid of him.
In any event, these prior incidents involved investigating and writing about matters at Marquette. Criticism and publicity of public actions and matters of public and institutional interest are not “bullying.” If they were, then the Journal Sentinel’s Karen Herzog and Dan Bice and their newspaper colleagues would be the biggest bullies in town. But that would be an unfair way to characterize them. To say that McAdams was hired as a “professor” and not a “journalist” is a non sequitur. Professors have the right to engage in institutional criticism. It is a major component of academic freedom.
One could have just as easily written that prior incidents showed that McAdams was a critic of the university that now seeks to fire him. Indeed, McAdams’ writing on student activities is dwarfed by the number of times he has criticized very powerful figures at Marquette. Writing an article about the latter — and not the former — is to buy into the university’s misleading narrative.
As to the particular incidents of “bullying,” Professor McAdams wrote about the actions of the student newspaper in rejecting a pro-life advertisement. He attempted to contact a student who had listed herself as the campus contact for the production of the Vagina Monologues at the phone number that he had. He did nothing more than ask whether the play was going to be produced.
He wrote about the mistaken view by an unnamed student that citing facts that are inconsistent with one’s preexisting views on a subject - in this case the prevalence of sexual assault on campus - is not harassment. To be sure, in the midst of this debate with others (not the student herself), he referred to the unnamed student as “prissy.” If that is “bullying" we have truly become a nation of snowflakes. The University took no action in these situations because no action was warranted.
Vague references to “negative consequences” of McAdams blogging suggest something that is simply not there. The “negative consequences” here are no different than the “negative consequences” of an article that any of us might write. People will read it and form a judgment about the behavior reported upon. While Ms. Abbate received some abusive e-mails, Professor McAdams had nothing to do with them.
To say that our freedom of expression is limited by how the bottom feeders of life may react to them would mean that we have no freedom of expression at all. The FHC conceded that nothing like the e-mails sent to Ms. Abbate had, to John’s knowledge, happened before. And even if it had, the nasty and offensive reaction of third parties cannot silence the rest of us.
While Marquette repeatedly says that “more will come out” nothing ever does. The bottom line here is that John McAdams is being punished for writing an accurate blog post about a matter of great public and institutional interest.
That is atrocious.
Rick Esenberg is the head of our legal team, representing us against Marquette’s attempt to fire us.
Labels: Academic Freedom, Faculty Hearing Committee, John McAdams, Leftist Intolerance, Liberal Intolerance, Marquette University, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Political Correctness, Rick Esenberg