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McAdams: ‘Academic freedom means nothing at Marquette’

By   /   March 25, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Marquette University administrators are doubling down on their assault on academic freedom, and it could ultimately cost the Jesuit institution of higher education.

On Thursday, Marquette University President Michael Lovell announced in a letter to Marquette community members that long-time political science professor John McAdams is suspended until January 2017 – without pay but with benefits.

The tenured professor who has been in professional limbo for 16 months since writing a controversial blog post also faces a greater indignity. He is to apologize for doing what college educators across the country are allowed to do: publicly expressing thoughts.

If McAdams doesn’t admit his “guilt” within the next two weeks, he will not be reinstated.

He remains defiant, saying he will not apologize.

“Marquette’s administration appears to believe that they can simply ignore the guarantee of academic freedom contained in faculty contracts, and get rid of a professor who has created problems for them by blowing the whistle on various kinds of misconduct at the institution,” McAdams told Wisconsin Watchdog.

“I didn’t violate any rule that they have. They have just concocted a claim based on vague rhetoric about Marquette’s values.  In the face of such actions, academic freedom means nothing at Marquette,” the professor added. file photo

WON’T BACK DOWN: Marquette political science professor John McAdams says he will not apologize for exercising his right to academic freedom. The university announced it will suspend the professor for his controversial blog comments in late 2014, and compel him to apologize.

McAdams has previously said that he would sue the university if it went ahead with its original plans to sever his tenure.

The discipline review process has dragged on since 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 would not allow opinions against same-sex marriage in her class.

The outspoken McAdams who has been highly critical of many of Marquette’s policies over the years has been suspended since December 2014, weeks after he posted his comments on his Marquette Warrior blog.

In his letter to the Marquette community, Lovell noted that he is following the faculty committee’s recommendation, issued in January, but will not disclose what that recommendation is.

“Today, I want you to know that after significant personal deliberation, I have decided to formally implement the Faculty Hearing Committee’s unanimous recommendation. While I cannot provide specific details of the recommendation because it relates to a personnel matter, I can assure you that my decision has been guided by Marquette University’s values and is solely based on Professor McAdams’ actions, and not political or ideological views expressed in his blog,” he wrote.

Marquette has long argued that McAdams violated the university’s value system.

McAdams and his attorney, Rick Esenberg of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, or WILL, assert that the steps taken Thursday by the university are “inimical to academic freedom.”

In fact, the Milwaukee-based WILL in a statement said the requirement McAdams apologize (or as the law firm put it, subject himself to “self-abasement and compelled speech”) was not recommended by the Faculty Hearing Committee.

“The committee found that Marquette had improperly suspended Dr. McAdams in violation of his due process rights under the Faculty Statutes and disagreed with the University’s desire to terminate him,” the institute stated.

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

In its 123-page report the “diverse” Faculty Hearing Committee, however, “gave lip service to academic freedom but made it subject to a multi-factor after-the-fact balancing test that would leave members of the university with no real guidance or protection other than the sufferance of their colleagues,” WILL said in the statement.

In other words, Marquette faculty retain freedom of speech “only as far as their colleagues are willing to tolerate it.”

McAdams, a nationally respected political science professor at Marquette for nearly 40 years, has been a thorn in the university’s side for a long time. He has been highly critical of administrators, particularly the Jesuit school’s myriad policies and initiatives steeped in political correctness.

The McAdams affair has been a public-relations nightmare for Marquette.

Last month, Marquette, again, made the list of “10 Worst Colleges for free speech” by the Foundation for Individual Rights for Education. The designation had everything to do with Marquette’s handling of McAdams.

John McAdams will join Wisconsin Watchdog Friday morning just after 10 a.m. on the Vicki McKenna Show, on NewsTalk 1130 WISN


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