Marquette devotes website, ads to disputing conservative prof

Marquette University has launched a public relations blitz as the Wisconsin Supreme Court prepares to hear the case of a conservative professor suspended over a blog post.

Dr. John McAdams has been on paid suspension since December 2014 for a blog post in which he calls out another instructor, Cheryl Abbate, for telling students not to dispute the propriety of gay marriage in class because it would be “homophobic” to express opposition to the idea.

The university maintains that McAdams violated Marquette’s “Guiding Values” because his blog post included contact information that third-parties used to send vitriolic messages to Abbate, and has refused to lift his suspension until he issues a public apology, prompting McAdams to file a lawsuit in May 2016.

[RELATED: Marquette: McAdams to remain suspended until he apologizes]

According to the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), the law firm representing McAdams, a trial court initially ruled in favor of Marquette, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court subsequently agreed to bypass the Court of Appeals and take on the case itself. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin April 19, and WILL expects a ruling in June or July.

With tensions running high on campus over the matter, Marquette set up a web page this week to provide its version of the “Facts About McAdams Case,” complete with a list of “Myths vs. Facts.”

The page also features a short video in which Marquette President Michael Lovell explains the university’s position, insisting that “when one of our student teachers was made the victim of vicious, horrific, and relentless threats, we took the right and necessary action.”

“This is about protecting our students [and] our community,” Lovell says, concluding that “We stand firm in our commitment.”

[RELATED: Marquette prof suspended, required to admit ‘guilt’ to keep job]

“Underneath Lovell’s pious rhetoric is the fact that I have been a thorn in Marquette’s side, blogging about misconduct by faculty and by the administration for years,” McAdams told Campus Reform in response to the video. “Thus I have made a lot of enemies, especially among politically correct leftist faculty, who have long wanted me fired or silenced. The blog post about Abbate was the necessary pretext.”

He also addressed the university’s contention that his blogging was directly responsible for the vitriolic messages sent to Abbate, saying, “The simple fact is that anybody whose misconduct is revealed by a journalist might get unkind and even abusive emails.”

“When journalists reveal misconduct, they virtually always name the miscreant,” he elaborated. “This would always apply if (say) a high school teacher made a racist comment to a class and it created an uproar, or a coach sexually molested a team member. But politically correct faculty leftists are supposed to get a pass.”

The real reason Marquette is upset, McAdams speculated, has to do with the controversial nature of the gay marriage issue.

“If I had blogged about (say) a male instructor who sexually harassed a female student, or a white instructor who said something racist to a black student, Marquette would not have minded,” he asserted. “But this was a conservative student who was demeaned because of his views on gay marriage.”

[RELATED: Fate of Marquette prof could hinge on opinions of adversaries]

The student who initially brought the issue to McAdams’ attention, who goes by the pseudonym “JD,” spoke exclusively with Campus Reform to give his take on Marquette’s public relations efforts, as well, describing the university’s approach as disingenuous.

“If Marquette was so concerned about their ‘students,’ then why did they choose to dismiss the concerns of one student and pursue the concerns of another?” he asked. 

“While Ms. Abbate may have been taking classes at the university, she was also the instructor on record for the philosophy class in question,” JD noted. “The fact that she was a graduate student does not dismiss the responsibility she has to her students taking the class which she was instructing.”

[RELATED: School ‘reassigns’ lecturer who bullied conservative student]

In addition to setting up the web page addressing the McAdams case, Marquette has also purchased digital ad space to promote the page.

“This ad may not show on every Google search, since even Marquette, which has paid well up into six figures in legal fees in an attempt to fire us, may not have set the ‘budget’ high enough to show on every search,” McAdams noted on his blog, though he speculated that the university may yet raise the budget.

“After all, the money doesn’t come from the pockets of the bureaucrats trying to fire us,” he writes. “It comes from students’ tuition money, and perhaps from endowment given by alumni who thought they were giving to improve the educational experience for students.” 

Marquette’s website provides a short list of “additional resources” created by the university, including a document declaring emphatically that McAdams is guilty of “doxing” and another citing various numerical figures, such as the number of pages in a Faculty Hearing Committee report about the case.

WILL, meanwhile, provides an extensive list of court documents pertaining to the case, including numerous amicus briefs filed in support of McAdams.

“I’m hoping the Wisconsin Supreme Court will come down on my side,” McAdams said. “But my lawyers tell me that one can never confidently predict what a court will do.”

Campus Reform reached out to Marquette University, but has not received a response.

Follow this author on Facebook: Zachary Thomas Petrizzo and Twitter: @Zach_Petrizzo