Marquette moves to fire tenured conservative professor for blog post

Kaitlyn Schallhorn
Former Reporter

  • Marquette University has notified Dr. John McAdams, a conservative tenured professor, of its intent to fire him.
  • The move comes after he published a blog post regarding a graduate student instructor telling a student that opposition to gay marriage is homophobic.
  • Marquette University has moved to fire a tenured conservative professor after he published a blog post about a graduate student instructor’s remarks to a student about gay marriage.

    Speaking by phone to Campus Reform, Dr. John McAdams confirmed his latest blog post for the Marquette Warrior saying the school has sent him a “Dear John” letter detailing its intent to revoke his tenure and fire him.

    "They have a history of persuading professors to go quietly and they may think that oh, they can sit down with my lawyer and I’ll agree to just retire...[i]f they think that’s going to happen, they’ve miscalculated."   

    “[Y]our conduct clearly and substantially fails to meet the standards of personal and professional excellence that generally characterizes University faculties,” Richard Holz, dean at Marquette, said in the 15-page letter. “As a result, your value to this academic institution is substantially impaired.”

    In November, McAdams detailed on his blog a story a student had confided in him. The student said that a graduate student instructor, completely in charge of the course she was instructing, refused to have a discussion on gay marriage as a disagreement with the lifestyle is “homophobic.”

    As a result of the blog post, McAdams was put on paid suspension and banned from the Catholic university’s campus.

    McAdams said the “vague rhetoric” in the letter from Holz, does not provide any type of criterion for his removal. McAdams has published the letter on his blog with two statements redacted as it would give away the identity of the anonymous student who was the result of the original blog post.

    “I mean, it’s ironic. If Marquette forbade people to support gay marriage, that would be a bad thing at a university, but at least it would be consistent with Catholicism,” he said.

    “Debate and intense discussion are at the heart of who we are as a university, but they must be balanced with respect —our Catholic faith and Jesuit tradition demand nothing less,” Marquette President Michael Lovell said in a statement on the school’s Facebook page. “There are dozens of ways disagreements can be handled with respect and civility on campus, many of which are outlined in our handbooks. And, there are dozens of ways a professor can productively help a student learn and grow.”

    The university claims that McAdams, an associate professor of political science, was unprofessional by publishing the name of the graduate instructor, Cheryl Abbate, in his blog because of the power difference between the two.

    “Of course I have no power over her because she’s in a different department,” McAdams told Campus Reform.

    For her part, Abbate, who has since transferred to the University of Colorado, Boulder, said McAdams distorted the altercation between her and the student. Campus Reform was unable to reach her for a comment.

    According to her own blog page, Abbate does “*not* have time to respond to [media] requests.”

    Marquette, a private Catholic school in Wisconsin, requires faculty and graduate assistants to take a sensitivity course that teaches opposition to gay marriage is harassment.

    McAdams said Marquette has a history of quieting professors and encouraging them to leave silently. In another blog post, he detailed the removal of criminology professor Richard Zevitz after making a “flippant” joke in his class.

    “They have a history of persuading professors to go quietly and they may think that oh, they can sit down with my lawyer and I’ll agree to just retire blah blah and no one will talk about it or something,” McAdams said. “If they think that’s going to happen, they’ve miscalculated.”

    McAdams told Campus Reform that he has the support of Dr. Daniel Maguire, a liberal professor in the theology department.

    McAdams is represented by Rick Esenberg of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. Esenberg did not respond to a request for comment from Campus Reform in time for publication.

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has given Marquette a “ red light” speech code rating meaning the school has “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn





    Kaitlyn Schallhorn

    Kaitlyn Schallhorn

    Former Reporter

    Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with Campus Reform. Prior to joining Campus Reform, Kaitlyn was a reporter at Red Alert Politics and covered business and restaurants for the Alexandria Times.  

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