Marquette Warrior: Marquette Misleads: Why Cheryl Abbate Left the University

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Marquette Misleads: Why Cheryl Abbate Left the University

Cheryl Abbate, readers of this blog will remember, was the Marquette graduate instructor who was approached after class one day by a student who noted she had briefly mentioned gay marriage, and seemed to endorse it. The student made it clear he would have liked an opportunity to oppose gay marriage. She told him:
  • “some opinions are not appropriate, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions”
  •  “do you know if anyone in your class is homosexual?” . . . “don’t you think it would be offensive to them”
  • “you don’t have a right in this class to make homophobic comments.” 
  • “In this class, homophobic comments, racist comments, will not be tolerated.”
We blogged about the issue, and an uproar ensued. Abbate got some rather nasty e-mail messages (and noticed some rather unkind comments about herself surfing Internet discussion boards). But she got no actual threats.

Claiming to feel “unsafe,” she left Marquette for the University of Colorado, and Marquette, blaming us for the e-mails, began the process of revoking our tenure and firing us.

Marquette on Abbate’s Departure

Marquette claims it is all our fault that she left a cushy, comfortable position in Marquette’s Philosophy Department for the wilds of Colorado. For example, a Marquette “FAQ” claims that:
The graduate student left the university . . .  after she  was subject to a stream of threats and hateful messages.
A letter to us from Dean Rick Holz, dated January 31, 2015 outlines some of the unkind e-mails Abbate got, and claims:
Accordingly, and understandably, the student feared for her personal safety, and we posted a Public Safety Officer outside her classroom. In addition, as a result of your conduct and its consequences, Ms. Cheryl Abbate now has withdrawn from our graduate program and moved to another University to continue her academic career.

The Reality

The first thing that might raise some suspicion about Marquette’s claim is the simple fact that Colorado’s Philosophy Ph.D. programs ranks much higher than Marquette’s. One site that lists several different ranking metrics puts Colorado consistently in the top 40 programs in the country, and Marquette barely in the top 100.

Other sites ranking the top programs list Colorado, but fail to list Marquette at all, apparently because it is not in the top 60, and in another case because it is not in the top 50.

The Inside Story

More direct evidence comes from documents produced during the “discovery” process in our suit against Marquette.  James South, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences, and former Chair of the Philosophy Department explained in an e-mail to Dean Holz:
Friday, December 5, 2014 5:11 PM

Rick,

It’s complicated, but the short version is Cheryl is planning to leave Marquette and go to a different Ph.D. Program, which has offered her significant financial aid and is reputationally superior to MU. She’s working on a letter to Nancy [Snow] about this, which she is also going to send to Jeanne.

We can talk more on Monday. But several programs reached out to her and offered her aid and [she] finds MU to be very uncomfortable and toxic. She walks around afraid for her safety and feels unsupported by the senior faculty of the department.

James
Another e-mail on December 9, also from South to Holz, responds to Philosophy Chair Nancy Show’s version of events:
Hi Rick,

If you have a few minutes, could we talk about this tomorrow? Cheryl is not just leaving because of McAdams, but because she did not feel comfortable in the department — for several reasons, not least because of how Nancy [Snow] treated her, her research area, and her mentor, Susanne [Foster].

Anyway, I resent Nancy saying I felt threatened by McAdams and none of the senior faculty she mentioned have been harmed by McAdams in the way she suggests. Indeed, I’ve always felt much more annoyed by Nancy than by anything McAdams said and I’ve seen her intimidate and belittle her colleagues more than McAdams has ever done.

Sorry to unload on you, but I don’t want Nancy giving the wrong impression to people, and at some point she needs to be called to her own account.
Best,
James
We can’t speak to Abbate’s feeling of being “unsafe,” except to repeat that she received no actual threats, and to note that politically correct people on college campuses have weaponized fragility by claiming to feel “unsafe” in all sorts of circumstances.

It seems that on this, as on so many issues, Marquette has intentionally issued misleading and (in some cases) flatly false statements. All the while exuding pious rhetoric about its “Catholic mission.”

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2 Comments:

Blogger CS said...

"It seems that on this, as on so many issues, Marquette has intentionally issued misleading and (in some cases) flatly false statements"

Get with it John. You're stuck in the ancient past. This is the age of the evidence-free proof. Like Russia and the Skripal poisonings. The Skripals are Russian, Vladimir Putin is Russian, we all know what being a Russian means, so clearly, Putin did it — personally.

Likewise, questioning gay marriage is non-PC, you're non-PC, we all know what being non-PC means, so clearly you're responsible for anyone made to feel unsafe for advocating gay marriage.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Having read the transcript of Ms. Abbate's comments and questions to a graduate student at Marquette University, I believe she did the correct thing by leaving the university.
If Ms. Abbate had ended her commentary with the opening statements of, "some opinions are not appropriate, such as racist opinions and sexist opinions.", then all would be considered the end of the conversation. Instead Ms. Abbate went on and on with offensive questions and further offerings of her own bias against a traditional perspective on homosexuality.
If Ms. Abbate feels "unsafe" at Marquette University, then by all means she should leave and feel welcome at places such as the University of California at Berkeley, Benington College, the University of Colorado at Boulder, or elsewhere. I suggest that she not apply to Liberty University, Hillsdale College nor Ave Maria College.

4:31 PM  

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