Tenured professor fired for daring to do what?

Tenured professor fired for daring to do what?
John McAdams (Image: Washington Post video screen grab)

Firing a teacher with tenure is a rare occurrence in academia. Doing so requires that a university show cause for his actions.

So what was the cause Marquette University cited for terminating John McAdams, an associate professor of political science? The Washington Post has the story:

After a student complained after a philosophy class that he was disappointed that he and others who question gay marriage had not been allowed to express their views during the classroom discussion, the graduate-student instructor told him that opposition to gay marriage was homophobic and offensive and would not be tolerated in her theory of ethics class. John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at Marquette, blogged about it, writing that the instructor “was just using a tactic typical among liberals now. Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”

The article goes on to note that the story, which touches on a number of hot button issues, went viral. The dominoes then fell:

  1. The instructor was targeted on social media and left the university.
  2. McAdams was suspended without pay, banned from campus, and ultimately told he couldn’t return to his class unless he wrote an apology acknowledging that he had acted recklessly and in a manner incompatible with the university’s values.

He is now suing for breach of contract.

Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which is joining McAdams in the suit, is quoting as saying:

John McAdams wrote about a matter of great public and institutional interest. The question of political correctness on campus and the view that certain points of view are sort of beyond the pale of civil discourse and constitute harassment or are so offensive that they cannot be expressed — it’s a big issue in this country.

Marquette claims this is not about freedom of speech or academic freedom, insisting that McAdams’s suspension is a function of his conduct toward a graduate student. The university released a statement that reads:

Dr. McAdams has been blogging for more than a decade, publishing approximately 3,000 posts, and the university administration has never disciplined him. He has the right to talk about controversial topics on his blog, and to disagree with and debate Marquette-related positions freely. Where Dr. McAdams crossed the line is when he launched a personal attack against a student, subjecting her to threats and hateful messages. Dr. McAdams continues to use the student’s name on his blog, even recently identifying where she is currently studying, leading to more hostile and threatening messages.

How the case is ruled on by Milwaukee County Circuit Court could have far-reaching implications.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.


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