Friday, February 09, 2018

Journal-Sentinel on McAdams v. Marquette

Appearing today, a very good article in the local paper by columnist Christian Schneider titled “In the case of professor John McAdams, Marquette lost its way.”

Schneider gives some history:
In 1853, the Rev. Anthony Urbanek of the newly minted Catholic Diocese of Milwaukee reported back to Vienna on the state of Catholics in the fledgling city. Urbanek expressed optimism at how quickly Catholicism had taken root in Milwaukee, especially among its German and Irish settlers.

“What an encouraging sight it is to witness crowds of young and old on Sundays, coming from all sides out of the woods, as though they arose out of the ground,” Urbanek wrote, noting many churches weren’t large enough to hold all the people who wanted to attend services.

Not so with schools. If parents wanted to send their children to Catholic schools to “preserve their children from Yankee-ism,” he said, they would have to pay for the schools themselves. Trying to educate Catholic children in public schools, he said, “soon deteriorates into heathenism.”

And so, led by Archbishop John M. Henni and funded with a $16,000 gift from a rich Belgian, the diocese founded a small Jesuit college. The purpose of Marquette was to allow for academic freedom, distinct from the pressures of the secular world.
Schneider then outlines the basics of Marquette’s attempt to fire us, and concludes:
Marquette’s contract with faculty contains the promise that they will not be disciplined for “legitimate personal or academic freedoms of thought, doctrine, discourse, association, advocacy, or action.” It vows not to “restrain…rights guaranteed (faculty) by the United States Constitution.”

McAdams’ treatment vaporizes those promises; in this case, freedom of speech ended when an offended graduate student and sympathetic faculty advisers said it did. And the university capitulated to the very outside forces it was founded to resist.

Biased Reporting

Schneider’s column is in stark contrast to the slanted reporting the Journal-Sentinel usually provides, courtesy of Karen Herzog. In an absurdly biased story back on January 23, she pretty much acted as a mouthpiece for Marquette, suppressing information and giving a biased version of events.

The story, as it now exists online, is slightly sanitized relative to the one originally posted (but Google cache is the friend of people wanting to document embarrassing things posted and then changed).

In the original story, Herzog wrote “McAdams argued that he could say anything he wanted on his blog because of academic freedom protections.” This is nonsense, since we never claimed we could say anything we wanted. We never claimed the right to libel anybody, for example. Herzog changed that to “McAdams argued what he writes on his blog has academic freedom protections,” which is correct.

Much worse is Herzog’s description of what our original post was about. She said: “McAdams said he did it because he felt the graduate student was trying to impose her liberal views on students she taught.” In fact, we blogged about a graduate instructor (Cheryl Abbate) who told at student who wanted to argue against gay marriage (which had come up in class) that he could not do so, since he was not allowed to say “homophobic” things, and any such argument would “offend” any gay students in class.

Herzog apparently believed that an accurate account of what Abbate did would leave readers much less sympathetic to her, and would make it obvious that a serious issue of campus political correctness was involved.

Naming Wrongdoers

Herzog repeats Marquette’s claim that we should not have named Abbate. But Herzog knows perfectly well that the Journal-Sentinel (or any other news outlet) will name people accused of misconduct. This would apply to (say) an athletic coach accused of sexually molesting athletes or a county employee accused of embezzling funds. But Marquette wants to claim that a graduate instructor, who was 27 years old and had been in the military, and was the “instructor of record” in the course, should be exempt.

Herzog uncritically accepts Marquette’s claim that “the graduate student instructor reportedly started receiving threats as a result of the blog post.” Had Herzog simply bothered to read what was at the time the most current post on our blog, she would have known this was flatly untrue.

Herzog, without bothering to check, repeated Marquette President Michael Lovell’s claim that I had “expos[ed] her [Abbate’s] personal contact information as recently as last month.” I was puzzled reading this, until it was brought to my attention that a link to an Abbate page was included in a column by George Will in the Washington Post, which I republished on my blog. It seems Lovell’s real beef is with the Washington Post. Herzog could have checked this out.

Read Only One Side

Finally, at the very bottom of the story as it first appeared, was the notation “While in the national spotlight over the case, Marquette posted a list of frequently asked questions and answers about the case on its website.” This is linked to a Marquette “FAQ.”

An unbiased story would also refer readers to the website of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, to get the other side of the issue. But Herzog has chosen to be, essentially, a sock puppet for Marquette.

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