Thursday, July 12, 2018

Michael Lovell’s Fiasco: The Cost

Marquette’s defeat in the Wisconsin Supreme Court for its attempt to fire us was epic. The Court trashed Marquette’s lame arguments, one of which was that it should defer to a Faculty Hearing Committee that said we had been guilty of misconduct and should be suspended without pay for one or two semesters.

The court noted that we had not agreed in our contract to accept the judgment of a bunch of other professors as to whether we could express our opinions on our blog. Further, Marquette President Michael Lovell went beyond the Faculty Hearing Committee in punishing us, demanding a Stalinist apology. Marquette, in other words, was arguing that Faculty Hearing Committee was binding when it was convenient for the university, but not binding when it was inconvenient.

“Guiding Values”

The university claimed it could invoke its “Guiding Values” to override our black letter guarantee of free expression. The Court trashed this notion:
The University posited that educational institutions assume academic freedom is just one value that must be balanced against “other values core to their mission.” Some of those values, it says, include the obligation to "take care not to cause harm, directly or indirectly, to members of the university community,” “to respect the dignity of others and to acknowledge their right to express differing opinions,” to “safeguard[] the conditions for the community to exist,” to “ensur[e] colleagues feel free to explore undeveloped ideas,” and to carry out “the concept of cura personalis,” which involves working and caring “for all aspects of the lives of the members of the institution.” These are worthy aspirations, and they reflect well on the University. But they contain insufficiently certain standards by which a professor’s compliance may be measured. Setting the doctrine of academic freedom adrift amongst these competing values would deprive the doctrine of its instructive power; it would provide faculty members with little to no guidance on what it covers.
The Court was doubtless unimpressed with Marquette’s pious rhetoric about “values” in light of the fact that our blog post highlighted an instructor who insulted a student, telling him that his opposition to gay marriage would sound homophobic, would be offensive, and could not be expressed in her class. When he complained to authorities he was blown off, and indeed insulted.

Even if the Court had been inclined to defer to Marquette’s real values, why should they defer to hypocritical rhetoric about values?

Michael Lovell

Marquette President Michael Lovell has, quite simply, been responsible for a huge fiasco. His obtuseness in not recognizing our binding contractual right to the same free expression guaranteed in the Constitution, and his stubbornness pushing the issue all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court has been stunning.

The Cost

Three sources of ours intimately familiar with this case and with lawyers’ billing rates estimate the legal fees Marquette has incurred at between $750,000 and $1,000,000.

But there were further costs. The Chronicle of Higher Education quotes Lovell (paywall):
The university has forcefully pushed back against McAdams’s narrative that the key issue is academic freedom. It pressed its case in advertisements in newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal. It set up a web page, complete with a timeline and fact-vs.-myth section. It hired a public-relations firm with a storytelling team.

“In terms of our brand and public perception,” Lovell says, “we were taking a beating. We thought it was important to at least try to get the truth out about what we felt our side of the story was.”
Marquette, in fact, even bought Google ads to lead web surfers to a page that attacks us.

None of this came out of Lovell’s pocket. He has spent other people’s money. It was either endowment, or tuition, or a combination of the two. His jihad against this blogger has been expensive.

Lovell’s Motivation

There are two theories about what moves Michael Lovell. One is that he is simply a careerist bureaucrat wanting to “move up” to a more prestigious institution. The theory is that his incessant pandering to the forces of political correctness is his strategy for doing this. Thus he demonstrated in sympathy with students at the University of Missouristudents who latched onto bogus grievances and began bullying everybody else on campus.

Thus he piously claimed to “stand against racism” when black students at Marquette were in an uproar about a “racist” photo that was not, in fact, racist.

The other theory, one we are beginning to favor, is that Lovell is an actual social justice warrior. That, instead of being an opportunist, his pandering to the forces of political correctness is sincere, and his campaign to fire us was was a matter of conviction.

Unfortunately, having a president who is a sincere social justice warrior is even more toxic than having an opportunist bureaucrat. The latter might back off of a disastrous policy.

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Blogger jvc said...

I wouldn't discount the first theory. I think the central motivating factor behind the unrivaled pettiness of the Marquette bureaucracy is a world-class inferiority complex.


9:51 AM  
Blogger Julie Praxmarer said...

I would also hope this situation cost the school in donations. I know many alumni that will no longer donate due to the handling of this situation, in addition to other actions, including the destruction of the pro-life display and the overall anti-Catholic sentiment now at the school.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Jim Jeeps said...

It is unfortunate how far MU has wondered from it's heritage. This is no longer a Christian institution. My donations have gone elsewhere for a number of years now and I simply cannot attend my 25th reunion this year.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Bill Walsh said...

Catholic universities are no longer really Christian. The Jesuits and others have bought into expanded liberation theology created and sold to South American priests by Soviet communists as a way to attack capitalism aka the crony capitalism of So American dictators. Or cities like Chicago and San Fran.I

3:41 PM  
Blogger Dad29 said...

So.....which one lost more in recent battles? MU, or the FBI?

8:18 AM  
Blogger Terrence Berres said...

"There are two theories about what moves Michael Lovell. One is that he is simply a careerist bureaucrat wanting to 'move up' to a more prestigious institution. ... The other theory ... is that Lovell is an actual social justice warrior."

A third, based on his overreaction, as UW-M Chancellor, to an assertive student government, is that he is incapable of a considered response to a perceived challenge to his authority.

2:28 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Terrence Berres, excellent point, and I'm overdue for blogging about that.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

Lovell is a strong leader who has committed himself and Marquette to making Milwaukee County a better place. Every student I have talked to has expressed admiration for Lovell. Let’s see if McAdams posts this positive note.

7:52 PM  
Blogger R Finn said...

Golden Eagles is nothing more than a True Believer. Terrence Berres seems to have it right. Lovell believes in his own purity and can't tolerate a challenge to his absolute authority.

12:54 AM  
Blogger jvc said...

The worship of university bureaucrats, which has been happening for as long as I've been alive, is more worthy of a petty third-world dictatorship than a place of open discussion. The fact that students pay money to people raping them of their financial future, and do so with a smile, tells you just how bad the intellectual and psychological state of mind is of the average American student.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

JVC and R Finn:
I went to Marquette and took courses such as history, philosophy, physics, theology, foreign language, english and my core major courses in a health science major. All of the courses were intellectually stimualating and challenging. Not once did I think that a professor or TA was presenting a liberal or conservative ideology. Attending MU was one of the best experiences of my life. I have many friends who have attended MU and like myself have gone on to have successful careers. We have also brought the Jesuit values taught to us at MU into our jobs and community. The Jesuit values instilled in all of us continues to this day as we go about our lives. Like many of us I am continuing to pay off our student loans but I have always felt that the money I invested in my future was well worth it. The Jesuits also invested in my education with their generous scholarships which by far exceeded the ones offered by more conservative universities. Was I intellectually raped by MU - I don’t think so JVC. Rape would be something forced on me. The Jesuit education I received was fully embraced and will be treasured for the rest of my life.

6:27 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Golden Eagles: How long ago did you graduate?

Were you ever berated about your "white privilege?"

Was there ever a discussion of "social justice" where is was *assumed* that "social justice" is equivalent to the liberal/left political agenda?

Note that sciences are less politically correct than other disciplines. It's hard to claim that gravity is a bourgeois concept invented for the purpose of oppressing people (although one famous paper did).

8:22 PM  
Blogger R Finn said...

@ Golden Eagles: There are quite a few students, faculty, staff and alums who are not as enthralled by Lovell as you are. Lovell made a very foolish and costly mistake trying to remove Professor McAdams from the university. When Marquette tuition is going up 5% with an inflation rate around 2%, who do you think is going to pay for Lovell's reckless pursuit? He sure didn't hesitate to waste someone else's money.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

At R Finn - please keep in mind that the MU administration originally planned to revoke John McAdam’s tenure and fire him but the FRC overruled that. The punishment was suspension without pay for 1-2 semesters. His own colleagues believed that McAdams deserved punishement because of his continued harassment of Ms. Abbate. Now - I know and you know that if we were to do the same thing to someone who worked in the same company we would be fired. It simply isn’t tolerated. I doubt any professor at MU or anywhere else would support what McAdams did. This wasn’t an academic freedom case. This was a common sense response to a action that would not be tolerated in any workplace.

9:13 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Golden Eagle: Why do you keep saying "his own colleagues?" Do you actually believe that professors are unbiased? Do you actually doubt that they want to give campus administrators what they want? Professors are no special kind of people. In a lot of ways, they are worse than most people, because they are in thrall of authoritarian ideologies.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

The professors in your department are colleagues- right? The FRC overruled MU so I don’t think they give admin what they wanted. Authoritarian ideologies? Is this why you’re not a full professor after all these years.

6:19 PM  

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