Judge Rules Against Conservative Marquette Professor

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by Rodney Pelletier  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 8, 2017   

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A judge is ruling that Marquette University was justified in firing a tenured professor after he alleged a teacher had bullied a student for opposing same-sex marriage.

On May 4, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge David Hansher ruled that Jesuit-run Marquette University was justified in its suspension and subsequent firing of Dr. John McAdams, a tenured associate professor of political science, concluding the university followed its own statutes and policies in this regard.

McAdams had used his blog, The Marquette Warrior, to expose corruption in the liberal Jesuit university, which he called "an intolerant, politically correct institution whose 'Catholic mission' is nothing but a marketing gimmick."

In a blog post on November 9, 2014, he wrote that Cheryl Abbate, a student teacher, harassed a student in her Theory of Ethics philosophy class after an in-class exchange with her on same-sex marriage, where the student disagreed with her liberal positions. This student related this exchange to McAdams, who then blogged about it. 

According to McAdams, Abbate commented "[S]ome opinions are not appropriate, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions."

She continued, "[Y]ou don't have a right in this class to make homophobic comments. ... In this class, homophobic comments, racist comments, will not be tolerated." She invited the student to drop the class, which the student did shortly afterward.

McAdams commented that Abbate was "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."

Cheryl Abbate

Neither Abbate nor the university has denied the exchange took place but instead alleged that Abbate became "the target of a torrent of abusive communications that led her to fear for her safety and ultimately to leave Marquette in the middle of the academic year." The university's report continued further that McAdams "violated his obligation to fellow members of the Marquette community by recklessly causing harm to Ms. Abbate, even though that harm was caused indirectly."

The report committee "concludes that the harm to Ms. Abbate was substantial, foreseeable, easily avoidable and not justifiable."

On January 30, 2015, University Dean Richard Holz addressed a letter to McAdams announcing the university was beginning the process "to revoke your tenure and to dismiss you from the faculty."

"[Y]our conduct clearly and substantially fails to meet the standards of personal and professional excellence that generally characterizes university faculties," Holz declared. "As a result, your value to this academic institution is substantially impaired."

If a professor can be held responsible for the actions of every person who reads or even hears about what the professor writes, then they have no protections at all.

After an investigation and a hearing by the university's Faculty Hearing Committee (FHC), which McAdams claims was not impartial, it was agreed on March 24, 2016 that he would be suspended for two semesters without pay. Marquette president Michael Lovell went further to demand that McAdams be able to return only after writing a letter of apology — which he refused to do, insisting he did nothing wrong.

McAdams is vowing to appeal the ruling. His legal counselor, Rick Estenburg from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), is criticizing the court's decision: "If a professor can be held responsible for the actions of every person who reads or even hears about what the professor writes, then they have no protections at all. By that standard, every professor who was publicly critical of McAdams should be fired too."

Abbate has since left Marquette and is pursuing her doctorate at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She notes on her blog she is working on her doctoral thesis: "Redecorating Nature No More: Animal Rights Theory and the Imperative to Alleviate Ecological Harms." She makes no mention of her time at Marquette.


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