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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23 Comments:

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.

cf. http://www.unz.com/isteve/the-tunnel-of-oppression-test-of-whether-your-college-is-lame/

9:51 AM  
Blogger Julie Praxmarer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:19 PM  
Blogger R Finn said...

At Golden Eagles: Of course, anyone who continues to harass someone else in the workplace will likely be terminated. However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court did not find that Dr. McAdams harassed anyone. I am completely baffled by your statement, "I doubt any professor at MU or anywhere else would support what McAdams did." I know more Marquette students, faculty, staff and alums than you will probably ever know. Believe me, there are plenty of people with Marquette connections that support Dr. McAdams in this situation. Your statement suggests you may be one of those individuals who does not tolerate ideas or opinions that are different than yours. Your statement is actually more alarming than baffling. I think a Marquette graduate would realize there are people who may legitimately come to conclusions that are different than theirs.

Moreover, the faculty hearing committee included at least one individual who was openly biased against Dr. McAdams. This was clearly not an unbiased group of faculty members who sat in judgment of their colleague, Dr. McAdams. Finally, Michael Lovell added an arbitrary and capricious demand that Dr. McAdams apologize for his actions in order to have his suspension (read firing) lifted. This borders on a demand that Dr. McAdams should be reeducated. That is scary stuff. Michael Lovell has cost Marquette University a considerable amount of money and prestige by his vindictive endeavor. I suggest that it is time for Marquette to return the presidency to a Jesuit.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:04 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@ Golden Eagles: Are you not aware that college faculty criticize other faculty all the time? It's quite routine. If a black student heard a professor say something racist, you would be fine with any other faculty member criticizing him or her.

You say "just one faculty member who was biased," but it was only one who loudly expressed her bias. Others probably were, and faculty generally tend to be toadies, giving the administration what it wants. Remember, administrators have a lot of goodies they can hand out to favored faculty.

As for the "trama program:" Lovell engages in a lot of high visibility PR and virtue signalling. Doing a decent job of running the university is another matter.

4:52 PM  
Blogger R Finn said...

Golden Eagles > You have taken my comments and words into a direction away from where they were spoken in my post. I will repeat once again. I am baffled and alarmed by your statement, "I doubt any professor at MU or anywhere else would support what McAdams did." Do you really believe that no other Marquette professor or professor anywhere else would have an opinion different than yours concerning the case of Dr. McAdams' suspension/firing? If you do, you either failed in your education at Marquette, or Marquette failed in the educational opportunity provided for you. Either way, it is a failure in your education. I am sorry to have to alert you to that, but perhaps someday you can redeem yourself.

You say there is a reason why the Board of Trustees appointed Lovell as president. I can assure you that Lovell's gross mishandling of the Professor McAdams case has led to trustees questioning whether the appointment was the right one or not. As for Marquette returning the presidency to a Jesuit, I am simply suggesting that perhaps they might get the next appointment right. Just like in anything, some Jesuit presidents have worked out well and some have not. Marquette once had a Jesuit dean of a college who went on to become vice-president at another institution and president at two other institutions during his career. He was the type of individual I have in mind. He passed away not long ago, but perhaps Marquette can mine another gem and keep him this time.

You have taken the conversation to the point where you are blindly shooting in every direction in the dark, so you can turn your attention to someone else.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Golden Eagles said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:24 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

@Golden Eagles: You have never answered my question. Did Abbate do anything wrong?

As for "snowflake:" would you call a female student who was attacked and demeaned by an instructor using sexist language be a "snowflake?"

How about a black student who was addressed with racist language by an instructor?

You really don't mind people who disagree with you politically being demeaned and insulted, do you?

11:43 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Bottom line - what McAdams did was inappropriate for a professor at MU or any other institution

Do you understand that it's perfectly normal for professors to criticize other professors?

For example, do you think all the professors who criticized Amy Wax should be punished?

https://reason.com/blog/2018/03/14/controversial-law-professors-comments-on

Yes or no?

11:52 PM  

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