Conservative prof sues Marquette for suspending him over blog post
A conservative professor filed a lawsuit Monday against Marquette University, claiming the school violated his academic freedom by suspending him and demanding that he apologize for a post on his personal blog.
Dr. John McAdams was put on paid suspension in December 2014 while the university investigated a post he had written criticizing another instructor, Cheryl Abbate, for telling students not to dispute the propriety of gay marriage because it would be “homophobic” to express opposition to the idea.
"For blogging and defending an undergraduate student, Professor McAdams is being ... told that he will be fired unless, in the manner of a Soviet show trial, he confesses guilt and admits that his conduct was ‘reckless.’”
In March, university President Dr. Michael Lovell sent McAdams a letter informing him that the university had decided to suspend him—with benefits, but without pay—until January 2017, on the grounds that he had violated Marquette’s guiding values by writing a blog post that inspired third-parties to send vitriolic messages to Abbate.
Lovell also decided that McAdams’ reinstatement would be made conditional upon him issuing a public apology and admission of guilt, which McAdams steadfastly refused to do, maintaining that he had done nothing improper.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), which is representing McAdams, announced the suit in a press release Monday, bringing an end to several weeks of uncertainty during which McAdams had threatened to sue if Marquette did not reverse his punishment.
“For blogging and defending an undergraduate student, Professor McAdams is being suspended,” said WILL President Rick Esenberg. “But it is worse than that. He is being told that he will be fired unless, in the manner of a Soviet show trial, he confesses guilt and admits that his conduct was ‘reckless.’”
McAdams, however, refuses to apologize, saying he simply criticized the university “to ensure it holds to its Catholic traditions,” and pointing out that the administration has completely ignored the complaint leveled by the former student whose opinions were silenced.
“I think the most overlooked aspect of this matter is that no one in the Marquette administration has taken seriously the complaint of the undergraduate student who was silenced by the instructor,” he stated in the press release. “I’m saddened that Marquette’s treatment of the undergraduate student at the center of this controversy failed to adhere to its guiding principle of Cura Personalis [care for the entire person].”
Marquette, on the other hand, has laughed off the suit, according to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, releasing a statement saying the school welcomes the opportunity to expose McAdams’ “false narrative” in court.
“We welcome this issue being addressed in court, where the public will hear a comprehensive account of Dr. McAdams’ mistreatment of our former graduate student, rather than the select details he has handpicked to promote his false narrative,” the university said. “Once all the facts are made clear, Marquette fully expects that the decision to suspend him will be upheld.”
The school has even doubled-down on its position with a FAQ page on its website detailing its side of the case. In the FAQ, the school condemns McAdams’ election to write about the mishap in a blog post rather than using the “established internal channels,” and insists that the case is not a matter of free speech but rather “is about the professor’s conduct toward a graduate student.”
Although McAdams is convinced the school is punishing him because of his political views, Marquette is quick to shoot down these allegations in its FAQ page, saying its decision “had nothing to do with politics.”
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Campus Reform investigative reporter Anthony Gockowski also contributed to this story.