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Marquette makes list of 10 worst colleges for free speech

By   /   February 17, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Story updated at 8:51 p.m. to note FIRE’s column published Wednesday in the Huffington Post

MILWAUKEE – Thanks to its stubborn assault on academic freedom, Marquette University finds itself – again – on the top 10 list of the worst colleges for free speech, according to a new ranking compiled by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Marquette makes FIRE’s dishonor roll this year for the same reason it did last year: its long-standing pursuit to strip the tenure of nationally respected political science professor John McAdams for critical comments he made on his blog about a Marquette graduate student teacher.

The speech battle has been going on since November 2014, when McAdams wrote a pointed piece about the instructor’s decision to restrict a student from voicing opinions on same-sex marriage during a class discussion. The student wanted to talk about why he opposed gay marriage; the student teacher thought that offensive.

Marquette, a Jesuit institution with a penchant for political correctness, suspended McAdams and began a slog of a process to fire him.

AP file photo

RESTRICTED SPEECH: Marquette University has again made a national list of the top 10 worst schools for free speech.

The political science professor continues to blog, and he continues to fight.

“Not only has the Huffington Post (and numerous other outlets) weighed in, Minding the Campus has awarded Marquette President Michael Lovell the ‘3rd Runner Up’ position among the worst college presidents of 2015,” he wrote this week on his blog. “Why only ‘3rd Runner Up?; Because there was a lot of competition in a year when left-wing students bullied faculty and administrators, and college presidents pandered mightily.”

Marquette has been trying to fire McAdams since last January, and he has been banned from campus while he appeals. No resolution is in sight.

But delay has been the pace of Marquette’s administration and a faculty staff that finally has delivered its recommendation on McAdams’ professional status. That advisory recommendation to Marquette administration remains confidential.

McAdams has threatened to sue the university if its administrators push him out of the institution where he has taught for nearly 40 years.

He asserts that Marquette suspended him without due process and infringed up his academic freedom rights.

“But that was only the beginning,”  wrote Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of FIRE, Wednesday in the Huffington Post. “In public statements the university repeatedly insinuated, without any evidence, that McAdams had violated Marquette’s harassment policy, labeled him a threat to safety, and effectively held him directly responsible for the comments and actions of his readers  a position wildly opposed to basic free speech principles.”

A Marquette spokesman did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

RELATED: From Marquette to Mizzou, free speech is under politically correct assault

The other schools on FIRE’s top 10 list of the worst colleges for free speech were:

  • Mount St. Mary’s University, Maryland
  • Northwestern University
  • Louisiana State University
  • University of California, San Diego
  • Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Colorado College
  • University of Tulsa
  • Wesleyan University

Mount St. Mary’s assault on the First Amendment occurred in recent weeks, when the university’s president fired two faculty members for criticizing his plan to oust low-performing freshman. The advisor to the school’s student newspaper got the ax after the publication reported the president had told faculty members worried about the plan that they needed to change the way they view struggling students, according to Inside Higher Ed.  

“This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads,” the president  reportedly said.

After some horrific PR, the university has offered to reinstate the faculty members.

Colorado College suspended a student for 21 months for a six-word joke. The student admitted to making an offensive comment about black women, that they are “not hot,” on a popular social media site.  After a lot of public pressure, the private school cut the suspension to six months.

“This past year, free speech on campus took center stage and became international news,” said FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff. “For those of us who have worked for years on the frontlines, the threat to free speech on campus isn’t a new story. Too often students find their voices silenced, and increasingly their professors are finding themselves in the same boat. If this year’s ‘worst’ list proves anything, it’s that even tenured faculty members aren’t safe from the censor’s muzzle.”


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.