Michael Lovell’s Fiasco: The Cost
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 LovellMarquette 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 CostThree 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.Marquette, in fact, even bought Google ads to lead web surfers to a page that attacks us.
“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.”
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 MotivationThere 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 Missouri — students 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.
It bears repeating: We shouldn’t expect only students of color to respond to racism. I’m asking all of @MarquetteU to join me and share why you #StandAgainstRacism pic.twitter.com/ZzS4nlSxqU— Michael Lovell (@PresLovell) April 30, 2018
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.