Friday, July 06, 2018

WILL: Academic Freedom Wins at State Supreme Court


Our client, Dr. John McAdams, gets to teach at Marquette again

July 6, 2018 – Milwaukee, WI -- Today the Supreme Court of Wisconsin delivered a clear, decisive victory for our client, Dr. John McAdams, a conservative political science professor who was indefinitely suspended by Marquette University for blogging on a controversial topic. The victory ends a nearly four year fight between the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and Marquette University to have McAdams reinstated.

As we have argued since the beginning, the only thing Professor McAdams wants to do is to teach students with the academic freedom protections promised by Marquette University. And, because of today’s ruling, McAdams will be back in the classroom very soon.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice Dan Kelly, found that Professor McAdams’ blog post in defense of an undergraduate student - and criticizing a graduate student instructor - could not possibly have shown him to be unfit as a member of Marquette’s faculty, and Marquette’s decision to fire him violated its contractual promise to protect his academic freedom.

In addition, according to the Court, a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness for his or her position. The Court rejected the notion that disciplinary decisions regarding free speech by faculty members should be made by administration or faculty. The concept of academic freedom is worthless unless it protects expression which is opposed by the institution and is unpopular with most of the faculty.

Furthermore, today’s decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court relies on one of the simplest rules of fairness – you cannot punish somebody for violating a rule that did not exist when it was supposedly “broken.” Universities are free to create rules – even strict rules – about what their tenured professors can and cannot say publicly. What they cannot do is make up rules after the fact to punish a professor they want to get rid of.

We sincerely hope Marquette University learns from its mistakes and takes the utmost care at preserving free speech on campus. Unfortunately, the response today from Marquette gives us some pause. Marquette’s statement hints at curtailing academic speech for all their professors, which should alarm students and professors across the political spectrum. They repeat the claim– first made by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) – that private employers must have the right to set their own standards for employees. Their attorney declared that today’s decision “should be of grave concern to private businesses.”

That is, of course, nonsense. As explained by Justice Rebecca Bradley in her concurrence, “the doctrine of academic freedom has no application within private enterprise, unless of course a private entity incorporates the doctrine into employee contracts.” The only entities that should be concerned of today’s decision are universities who promise free speech to their professors and do not keep that promise.

All across the country, academic freedom is under assault on campuses. Universities are treating academic freedom as the right to say only what administrators or the loudest factions on campus approve of.

But today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck a major blow in favor of free speech, delivering the unequivocal message that “academic freedom” means just that.

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17 Comments:

Blogger Doc Rod said...

What McAdams did was not thoughtful, given the power of social media. His comments had consequences that may have been unintended, but should have been anticipated.

That being said, this case was ruled on properly. Marquette was not clear about what constituted a bright line that faculty should not cross in terms of their free speech rights. Speech can be restricted in certain circumstances, but those restrictions need to be clear and compelling in terms of why the restrictions are there.

I hope McAdams does write a book, just like Laura Kipnis wrote a book about the Title IX inquisition she had to endure.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Kirby Olson said...

This is such heartening news. Truth, beauty, as well as justice still exist. Congratulations, sir! You have saved many of us conservatives in the archipelago of Jonestowns that make up academic America.

10:01 PM  
Blogger McMahon42 said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! As an alum, and former Warrior, I am proud of you! God Bless.

Hugh McMahon

10:25 PM  
Blogger Patricia McCarthy said...

Congratulations and welcome back, Professor!

6:32 AM  
Blogger Lurker #59 said...

Congratulations! This is a fantastic win for you and all supporters of Academic Freedom, Free Speach, and the basic fundamentals of what Catholic higher education should be.

Hopefully, this ruling will allow other professors at Marquette to breath easier and feel more secure in their positions. May they find anew the ability to teach authentically without fear of reprisals from sectors of the Administration that are pushing a toxic agenda that stunts the development of ideas and the intellectual formation of the students at Marquette.

MU Theology 2004

9:26 AM  
Blogger Robert Joseph said...

Courageous David defeats the Giant. Focused persistence pays off, and yet another bullied goes after the bully and takes it down. Fight on, Professor McAdams!!

9:42 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I look forward to Professor McAdams supporting the free speech rights of all people who work and study at academic institutions.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Tom mke said...

The ruling by the WI Supreme Court is welcome news. Professor, your endurence is quite amazing. I hope you will now revive yourself a bit and get back into teaching with a good spirit.

My wife and I plan to attend a WI Jesuit Provence dinner in September. Mr. Lovell is expected to be the guest speaker. As an alum, and a grandparent of 10 grandchildren, I will again, take the opportunity to let him know my disappointment in his MU leadership. My family is three generations deep at the school. This long awaited decision will begin to move the university back toward the center where it should be. MU students need to know both sides of important debates in order to truly become worldly Warriors!

6:08 PM  
Blogger chapman55k said...

Congratulations! I have been following this a long time. It is outrageous that MU is characterizing the events the way they are. You performed a favor to the student body by calling out the bigoted (IMHO) behavior of the grad student teacher who went on to a more prestigious degree at University of Colorado than what MU could have afforded her.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Ken and Gill said...

The problem is simple. You are a sinner. You have no place in a Christian institution. Pay attention to Our Lord"s teaching. How does your conduct comply with His commandment to love thy neighbour?

You have hurt someone whom you should have helped – a younger, less experienced colleague at the start of her career. Instead you deliberately acted to expose her to hatred, abuse and threats.

That is, quite simply, sin.

Remove yourself from the public sphere, and take a some time to reflect on how standards of behaviour in today's world can conform with God's teaching. In that way you will satisfy the mission of the institution to which you claim adherence.

Otherwise, we must hope and pray that people inflict on you the kind of actions which others threatened to inflict on your victim. That would not be cruel and unusual punishment, it would be justice.

2:09 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"You are a sinner. You have no place in a Christian institution."

This is a hilarious pair of sentences.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Catherine A. McClarey said...

Congrats Professor! Sometimes the good guys win!


http://the-american-catholic.com/2018/07/06/the-good-guys-win-one/

8:07 PM  
Blogger knuzius said...

Congratulations, John! Thank you for refusing to let Marquette's (bloated) administration browbeat you into submission. Thank you for your tenacity and steadfastness. Thank you for Above all, thank you for defending academic freedom and freedom of speech at Marquette. I doubt that the administration will learn much if anything from this affair. The official reaction was filled with the usual litany of pious platitutes. The author or authors of that statement seem to believe that chanting "cura personalis" will conceal their hypocracy.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Bill Boushka said...

Fascinating, though complicated, case. I've had some experience with this sort of "workplace conflict of interest" with respect to publicly searchable speech in my own career (retired now). I outlined my remarks myself here on Blogger https://www.billboushka.me/2018/07/wisconsin-university-ordered-to.html and give more details in subsequent links. You can comment there or reach me by gmail or on Twitter by message at @JBoushka or on Facebook by message at john.boushka My own situations (there are two of them) are extremely complicated, especially the 2005 incident when I worked as a substitute teacher in a northern VA public school system -- a lot of improbable coincidences set up the "Black Swan" incident. The trouble with cases like this, is that an outside reader has to spend a lot of time digging through many details to understand the case fully.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Kirby Olson said...

Ken and Gill want to kill you for not loving your neighbor? That is the weirdness of the left now. I still see the priority in your case as standing up for the undergraduate's right to freedom of inquiry. Ken and Kill are part of the totalitarian left's sense that they are infallibly correct and everyone else should be quiet or be killed. Instead of this we must get the universities to go back to Madison and Federalist 10 in which he advocates for endless factions and the right of everyone to speak in the public square. Thank you so much for your bravery in the face of such terror.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

You are no longer welcome at Marquette. Please just take a buyout.

5:04 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Golden Eagles: Oh, I'm perfectly welcome by the people I care about, who aren't the leftist yahoos. Most of the students aren't leftist yahoos.

7:24 PM  

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