08 April 2016

Discerning Marquette Values from the Academic Inquisition of Professor John Mc Adams

Marquette University Professor John McAdams on Academic Intolerance and a Politically Correct Inquisition
In the fall of 2014, a Marquette University Undergraduate student had an encounter with his lecturer after a  “Theory of Ethics” class as the Graduate Teaching Assistant instructor Cheryl Abbate applied a philosophy text to contemporary political controversies.  After class, the undergraduate questioned how John Rawl’s Theory of Justice was blithely applied to gay rights.

The Undergraduate student argued against same-sex marriage and gay adoption. After engaging in some academic exchanges with the undergraduate who endorsed traditional family values, Abbate played the trump card of political correct “Offensiveness”.  The philosophy graduate student interrogated the  undergraduate as to whether he knew if there were any gay students in the class.  Abbate declared that no homophobic or racist comments would be tolerated and encouraged him to drop the class.

During the colloquy, the undergraduate student recorded the exchange with his cell phone.  When questioned by Abbate if the conversation was being recorded, the student denied that it was. Abbate demanded to see the phone, and when it was surrendered, indeed the conversation was being recorded.

Marquette Asst. Prof. John McAdams
Although the Undergraduate student did succumb to the pressure to exit that ethics class, he did try to work through the system to register his displeasure. The Arts and Science Dean shuffled the complaint to the Philosophy Chair who subsequently ignored the issue. Afterwards, the shunted student turned to Marquette Political Science Assistant Professor John McAdams, who also publishes “Marquette Warrior”, a new media news and analysis site that is often critical of the Marquette University Administration.

McAdams coverage of the free speech and academic freedom scandal spread like wildfire, reaching the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and  Fox News.  This publicity generated hate mail towards Abbate and exposed Marquette University’s progressive embrace of political correctness. Subsequently, the Marquette University Dean of the Arts and Sciences Richard C. Holtz suspended the tenured McAdams (with pay) and barred the Professor who taught at the institution for 33 years from visiting the downtown Milwaukee campus.

This controversy came to a head a fortnight ago, when Marquette University moved to suspend McAdams for a semester without pay but the Arts and Science Faulty stipulated as a condition for readmittance that McAdams profess his “guilt” for the incident and pledge that he would adhere to Marquette’s Guiding Values, whatever those are. 
Banner for the inaugural of Marquette University President  Michael Lovell

Essentially, this move puts McAdams on the tenure track for termination.

Seen from the progressive establishment’s perspective, McAdams is an outlier academic as he is a conservative Poly-Sci professor.  Moreover, McAdams is a gadfly, a tenured voice of discord with the progressive descent of Marquette Hall into political correctness.

 In addition, McAdams’ publishes “Marquette Warrior” which in itself is a slap in the face to Marquette’s administration.  In the early 1990s, then Marquette President Fr. Robert Wilde, S.J., banished the beloved Marquette Warrior citing political correct principles.  Despite having a ballot for another mascot which included “the Jellyfish”, “The Yacks” and “The Jumpin’ Jesuits”, it seemed that the “Golden Eagle” was predestined to win.  A quarter century later, Marquette Alums still defiantly cheer “Let’s Go Warriors” at Men’s basketball games.

Academia is up in arms over McAdams for self serving but parochial professional reasons.  Pieces defending Abbate insist that she was being smeared, that she was exposed to hate speech through publicity, that did not have proper time to respond and that McAdams used questionable journalism in reporting the incident.  The thing is if one reads McAdams piece, he exposes liberal fascism with the tactics of other Marquette professors and names names.  So the best way to shut him up is to claim Harassment and demand that he do political re-education via the Guiding Values mau-mau.

Why is this political inquisition on a college campus important?

Firstly, it again exposes liberal academic intolerance in the classroom. The legally taped recording memorialized how free speech was limited on behalf of not offending anyone (except those who disagree with political correct ideology).  Concomitantly, the reinstatement demand by the Marquette faculty essentially abates free speech.

Secondly, the incident impeaches Marquette University’s credibility as a Catholic university.  To have Teaching Assistants prohibiting even discussing views which align with the Magisterium (as reaffirmed by Pope Francis’ recent encyclical "Amoris Laetitia”) as it is homophobic or racist speech.  The Marquette Guiding Values trumpet Jesuit and  Catholic virtues but those seem to be a veneer.

Thirdly, it calls into question the value of tenure.  McAdams has been associated with Marquette for 34 ½ years and has tenure.  In order for his faculty rights to be re-instated, the Marquette Administration insists that he bow down to his colleagues, publically announce his guilt and swear fealty to Guiding Values which are amorphous and are being capriciously followed (see Catholic Magisterium).

Fourthly, the Marquette Warrior blog shows the value of the New Media and Internet 2.0.  After getting the run around from the Administration, a citizen journalist (in the person of a tenured faculty member) spread the news and the abuse was exposed.  Some argue that McAdams did not follow journalistic practice.  But he had a primary source, legally taped proof and wrote an opinion analysis, which certainly fell within his Political Science bailiwick.  It shows how administrators, be they academic or corporate, can infringe on personal liberty and free speech via monitoring social media.

Fifthly, it shows liberal hypocrisy.  Marquette’s Administration is all in a twitter about their former Teaching Assistant being harassed (but not by McAdams) and receiving hate mail.  However, as the matter was being adjudicated, they have no concern that the whistle-blower was also receiving hateful blowback.

It seems as if Marquette’s Administration is trying to settle old grudges through this incident.  McAdams clearly is not beloved by the Arts and Science Faculty as he is a conservative and one who will call out his colleagues.  McAdams embarrassed the Marquette Administration by getting national attention.  By suspending McAdams and demanding terms which violate his tenure and contractually guaranteed Freedom of Speech, Marquette sets McAdams up to be terminated and fight in court.  Law-fare is a long and expensive process in which litigants can claim privilege and not discuss the case. The seventy year old McAdams might drop the costly case or it will become moot in the long process of adjudication.

At the heart of the matter, we must discern what are Marquette’s values in this academic inquisition. Liberal education in the classical sense, a study of the higher things which draws forth and hones inquisitiveness and debate that empowers students to deal with the complexities of life?  Or is it expensive inculcation of au currant politically correct values and an appreciation of liberal fascism?

Marquette proclaims itself a Catholic academic institution which is committed to Catholic social teaching and  gives “our support of Catholic beliefs and values”.  While it has long had progressive theologian Dan McGuire (who incidentally supports McAdams academic freedom) it has also produced Scott Hahn, a convert Catholic who has revolutionized Covenant theology.  Is barring even the defense of the Magisterium in the form of supporting traditional marriage in the classroom impermissible?  Really?

Marquette’s Guiding Values manifesto exhorts reaching beyond traditional academic boundaries and embracing new methods.  Do these values include using the new media to expose academic intimidation in the classroom, documenting political correctness and sharing the truth with the world?

The Guiding Values close with an admonition that echoes St. Ignatius of Loyola to “set the world on fire.”  I fear that the McAdams affair sets Marquette’s supposed “Guiding Values” on fire. But a blaze of truth can purify.

Tell that to Joan of Arc. The Maid of Orleans was burned at the stake in 1431 in Rouen by the English powers that be because she espoused God's truths.  When the ecclesiastic establishment could not trip Joan of Arc up during her testimony, they charged her with scandal about cross-dressing.  Joan's captures gave her a chance to recant but when she again followed God's will, she was burned at the stake for repeated heresy.  This was brilliantly portrayed in the mesmerizing Carl Theodore Dreyer film "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (1928). Pope Benedict XV canonized St. Joan of Arc in 1920.

The Joan of Arc chapel was transferred brick by brick from Orleans, France to Long Island in 1927.  The Joan of Arc Chapel was brought to Milwaukee in 1964 and is the centerpiece of the campus. What an ironic parallel for Marquette to honor the virtues of St. Joan of Arc but acts so inquisitorially towards a tenured academician following truth.

Bronze of (Pere) Jacques Marquette (2004) by Ronald Knepper in front of
St. Joan of Arc Chapel, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Post Scriptus:  Marquette University President Michael Lovell assessed the McAdams mess as making a "personal attack" on a student.  The salient point was what capacity was then Marquette Teaching Assistant Cheryl Abbate acting when she barred free speech in the classroom concerning Same-Sex Marriage.  Res ipsa loquitur. Abbate was acting as an instructor as she dictated acceptable rhetoric and viewpoints within her classroom.  Moreover Abbate pressured the undergraduate philosophy student to drop the class. 

UPDATE 01/18/2017  Professor McAdams received a letter from Marquette legal counsel that he will remain on indefinite suspension until he admits his guilt and formally apologizes.  Professor McAdams lawyer considers this letter the functional equivalent of a pink slip.  McAdams is on route to a jury trial in June and he is not inclined to take a large settlement to shut up and make the problem go away. 

UPDATE 01/24/2018 The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to bypass the Court of Appeals and immediately hear Professor John McAdams’ case against Marquette University.  McAdams sued Marquette after the university fired him for blogging about a graduate student instructor who mistreated her undergraduate pupil.  The court will likely hear oral argument in in the spring and and issue a ruling by July, 2018.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court took the case 

because there is no binding precedent on the question of how far academic freedom extends.