McAdams: Conservative students like 'insurgents' on campus
- Dr. John McAdams, the Marquette University professor suspended for a blog post, encouraged conservative students to be “more willing to speak out” at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
- Warning against a "spiral of silence," he also expressed support for students who record their professors' classroom rants, saying academic freedom allows the speech, but doesn't shelter it from scrutiny.
Dr. John McAdams, the Marquette University professor suspended for a blog post, encouraged conservative students to be “more willing to speak out” at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
“You’ve got to think of yourselves as insurgents. If you fight, you can win with some frequency,” McAdams advised during an interview with Campus Reform at the premiere conservative gathering. “If the left demonstrates, you counter demonstrate. If someone violates your rights, sue, and remember there are a lot of organizations out there that will sue on your behalf pro bono.”
McAdams is even putting his own advice to use, suing his own employer for suspending him back in December 2014 for a blog post he wrote 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.
He has remained suspended ever since because he refuses to apologize for his criticisms and admit his “guilt,” a condition the school’s president, Michael Lovell, refuses to waive.
While McAdams finally received his first court hearing on February 2, things could “go on and on and on,” he explained, since “whatever the outcome is it might not be final.”
“In the best of all worlds we, I and my lawyers, would get summary judgement and Marquette would decide to settle,” he continued. “On the other hand, the judge could say it goes to a jury trial in June, and either side could appeal the judge’s summary judgement to a district court and then to the state supreme court.”
McAdams continues to fight, despite the length of his back-and-forth battle with Marquette, and continually advised conservative students to do the same when speaking with Campus Reform.
“Know who your allies are, which includes, of course, Campus Reform, and includes the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education. Publicize bad situations. When people try to shut you up, or when you see extreme cases of bias, publicize them. Let them go public,” he suggested, warning students against falling into a “spiral of silence.”
“Now remember there’s something called a spiral of silence and you can break the spiral of silence if people start speaking out,” he elaborated. “A few people speaking out will encourage a few more people to speak out, which encourages yet a further group of people to speak out, and if enough people will simply speak out, you can have a kind of balanced discourse.”
Recent news cycles have been filled with discussions of the propriety of recording professors, a topic that intrigued the national media after a student at Orange Coast College was suspended for filming a professor calling Donald Trump’s election “an act of terrorism,” and one that McAdams had his own strong opinions on.
“Number one, professors say it’s a violation of their academic freedom, but that’s ridiculous. Academic freedom means lefty professors can say crazy lefty things in class. It doesn’t mean that the crazy lefty things have to be kept secret,” he argued, saying that “people have a right to document wrongdoing,” but “people who engage in misconduct don’t have a right to have that kept secret.”
Campus Reform also discussed with McAdams a recent social media effort it has popularized called “#LiberalPrivilege,” which refers to the ability of liberal students to express their political views freely without fear of consequence.
McAdams agreed that liberal privilege is certainly a phenomenon on college campuses, though he cautioned conservative students against worrying “a bit too much about the consequences” of promoting their political views on campus.
“I think it is, although I worry a bit that conservative students might worry a bit too much about the consequences, that if they were more willing to speak out they might find that yeah, you can get away with speaking out,” he told Campus Reform. “You might find a lot of other politically correct leftists who hate you because of it, but you can often get away with speaking out more than you think you can.”
McAdams was the recipient of this year’s Kirkpatrick Prize for Academic Freedom at CPAC’s Ronald Reagan Dinner, and his acceptance speech can be viewed here.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski