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McAdams: Marquette has a way of quietly making professors go away

By   /   February 22, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – John McAdams’ professional fate remains in limbo more than a year after Marquette University initiated the process to fire its outspoken political science professor.

It would appear that Marquette administrators – caught between a rock and a possible lawsuit in their pursuit to penalize free speech – are slow-walking McAdams

In an interview last week with Wisconsin Watchdog on the Vicki McKenna Show, McAdams said a Marquette faculty committee late last month finally came back with its recommendation on what to do with the long-time political science professor. That recommendation, however, remains confidential.

The committee was supposed to have met 90 days after McAdams was told in January 2015 that the university was pursuing removal of his tenure for comments he made on his blog about a graduate student teacher. She reportedly closed off opinions against same-sex marriage in her class.

The committee did not first meet until late September. It was to have a recommendation within 90 days of meeting, but the committee missed that deadline by nearly a month.

Watchdog.org file photo

WILL NOT GO QUIETLY: Marquette political science professor John McAdams continues his fight for academic freedom more than a year after university administrators began the process to fire him.

“So this thing has drug on and on,” McAdams said.

And it doesn’t appear to be moving to resolution any time soon. McAdams said administrators have said nothing to him about when they will come down to a decision.

A Marquette spokesman has not returned calls seeking comment.

“One of the theories why they are taking so long is that maybe they know they are in a pickle and they are casting around to try to find a face-saving way out,” McAdams said. He has threatened to sue the university if it fires him on what he believes are groundless charges while failing to honor its contractual agreement on academic freedom.

“Maybe they think if they just delay long enough, I and my lawyers will just go away,” McAdams added. “That’s not going to happen.”

He noted Marquette has a “history of sometimes being able to quietly get rid of professors.”

Case in point, criminology professor Richard Zevitz.

The Marquette Tribune reported in December 2013 that Zevitz was accused of telling students that if an active shooter came into his classroom that he would shoot the shooter, and then joked he would possibly take some shots at a few students he didn’t like.

“Some students reportedly felt uncomfortable enough to report it to the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences,” the newspaper reported.

While several students came to the professor’s defense, noting that he just had a “dark sense of humor,” Zevitz’s last two classes were canceled, he was put on paid administrative leave for the spring semester and was banned from campus.

He never came back.

Zevitz could not be reached for comment.

“Another issue here is the suspicion that the judgment of the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences might not be completely unbiased in dealing with this case,” McAdams wrote on his blog in January 2014.  “Zevitz has been in conflict with some of the more politically correct members of the Department, and at least some of his ‘colleagues’ might look favorably on tossing him out – or at least inducing him to leave.”

McAdams says Marquette, like so many universities across the nation, are drowning in political correctness, but it’s freedom that is dying.

“Emotional vulnerability has been weaponized,” he told Wisconsin Watchdog. “People claim to be offended. People claim to have been harassed. Of course, there is such a thing as real harassment. The problem is on campuses today people claim to feel harassed simply hearing things they disagree with.”

As Wisconsin Watchdog reported last week, Marquette once again has been named to the top 10 list of worst colleges for free speech, according to a new ranking compiled by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

RELATED: Marquette makes list of 10 worst colleges for free speech

The speech battle has been going on since November 2014, when McAdams wrote his 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 the slog of a process to fire him.

“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.”

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M.D. Kittle is national First Amendment reporter at Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]