Wednesday, January 17, 2018

President Lovell Attacks Warrior Blogger, We Respond

When the Wall Street Journal came down on our side in our academic freedom case against Marquette, Marquette President Michael Lovell responded with a letter published in the Journal.

The paper then kindly gave us a chance to respond to Lovell. We are reprinting Lovell’s letter, and our response, as well as a few of the comments both letters provoked.

First Lovell:
Your editorial “A Jesuit School Gets Dogmatic” (Jan. 8) describes Associate Professor John McAdams’s interaction with one of our former graduate students as “normal give and take of debate.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Mr. McAdams inflicted a public and personal internet attack on our student. Instead of expressing his concerns through established internal channels, he chose to blog about our graduate student—publicly shaming her, questioning her values and including a link to her contact information. Through those actions, he exposed her to a flood of violent threats and hateful messages.

In January 2016, Marquette’s faculty hearing committee unanimously concluded in a 123-page report that Mr. McAdams violated his core obligations as a tenured professor when he used his blog needlessly and recklessly to harm our student. In May 2017, a Milwaukee County judge issued a 33-page decision dismissing all claims against Marquette University. The judge’s decision states: “academic freedom does not mean that a faculty member can harass, threaten, intimidate, ridicule, or impose his or her views on students.”

John McAdams has the right to talk about controversial topics on his blog and to disagree with and debate Marquette-related positions freely. But he crossed the line when he launched a personal, demeaning internet attack on a Marquette student, choosing to publicly shame her to advance his narrative and draw attention to himself and his blog. Tenure and the freedoms that come with it also have obligations and responsibilities. These disturbing, harassing actions will never have a place on our campus. Just as they have no place in any work environment.

Michael R. Lovell

President, Marquette University
Now, our response:
Marquette University President Michael Lovell claims to be upset because in a blog post I exposed the misconduct of a graduate instructor who told one of her students that arguing for the Catholic position on gay marriage was forbidden, being “homophobic” and “offensive” (Letters, Jan. 12). The instructor in question (Cheryl Abbate) was 27 years old and had been in the U.S. military. She was the “instructor of record” in the class—to her students “the professor.”

Mr. Lovell claims I had “shamed” and “harassed” Ms. Abbate. But any journalist who exposes misconduct could be said to have “shamed” or “harassed” the subject of the reporting. Journalists (including faculty bloggers) expose misconduct. Exposing misconduct that politically correct folks dislike would never be labeled “shaming” or “harassment.” And I certainly questioned her “values” which are shamefully too prevalent on college campuses. That was why the incident mattered.

The claim that I linked to her “contact information” is flatly false. I linked to her toxic feminist blog post of Sept. 20, 2014 titled “Yes All Men . . . Contribute to the Prevalence of Rape.” Possibly people dug around on her blog and found her email address, or simply used Marquette’s standard formula.

Mr. Lovell claims I should have fought a quiet internal battle for redress. Of course bureaucrats want misconduct in their organizations handled quietly and internally. But journalists are under no obligation to accommodate them.

Mr. Lovell notes that a faculty panel recommended that I be suspended. But academic freedom for conservative faculty is pretty precarious in the hands of other faculty. Further, the faculty panel did not suggest I should render a Stalinist apology to get my job back. That was Mr. Lovell.

John McAdams

Milwaukee
And a few of the more interesting comments:

Responses to Lovell’s letter:
I have been involved and effective at raising millions of dollars for Marquette University. Recently I observed the law of unintended consequences working when a fellow dental alum rescinded his six-figure donation because of President Lovell’s action.

Paul A. Gruber, DDS

“But he crossed the line when he launched a personal, demeaning internet attack on a Marquette student”

In other words, he told the truth about a 27 year old graduate student teaching a class. It may be inconvenient to the dual objectives of fundraising from alumni while adhering to campus leftist dogma, but it’s still the truth, n’est-ce pas? — Catherine Pate

President Lovell states: The judge’s decision states: “academic freedom does not mean that a faculty member can harass, threaten, intimidate, ridicule, or impose his or her views on students.”

Isn’t that what his leftist graduate student was doing? — Matt Burkholder

President Lovell claims that Professor McAdams “shamed” the graduate student. I read the blog and he factually reported what the graduate student did. No one disputes what took place. If what she did was not shameful, then nothing Professor McAdams said could be considered shaming. — Christopher Iliff

Comments in response to our letter:
I have fond memories of growing up in Milwaukee in the days when Marquette was still an unabashedly Catholic university. Guess the same folks who brought us Liberation Theology are running the place. — St.Clair Tweedie

McAdams was employed by Marquette. As such, he has an implicit responsibility to try to improve the University and at a minimum, not to damage it. He could have done so by going through the appropriate channels to have the situation addressed. He chose not to and his hiding behind his role as a journalist. He had a choice; carry out his responsibilities to his employer, or to pursue his freedom as a “journalist.” He chose to be a “journalist.” Given the potential and apparently intentional damage that he caused to Marquette, he was fired. — Stephen OBrien

@STEPHEN OBRIEN It is quite possible he did evaluate how to improve the University and in his own personal determination felt that the best way to do that was to “out” the situation because the sunshine was needed so it didn’t get brushed under the rug. — Michelle Madsen

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