The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) has requested the state Supreme Court hear the case of Marquette University Professor John McAdams who is appealing his termination by the university.
“Professor McAdams’ case continues to be a bellwether for academic freedom,” said Rick Esenberg, President and General Counsel at WILL in a statement released Wednesday. “Nothing he said or wrote justifies having his tenure stripped from him. Marquette’s decision to fire him is arbitrary and sets a dangerous precedent for professors not just at Marquette, but at UW System schools and other private colleges.”
McAdams was indefinitely suspended by the university in 2014 after a post on his blog, The Marquette Warrior, criticized philosophy instructor and graduate student Cheryl Abbate. In a recorded conversation, Abbate told a student at the Catholic university she would not allow discussion of viewpoints critical of same-sex marriage in her class. When McAdams’ blog post went “viral,” Abbate received a number of harassing and threatening emails.
McAdams, a nationally recognized expert on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, appealed to a faculty committee, saying the academic freedom mentioned in his contract protected his right to free speech. The faculty committee issued a report in January 2016 recommending unpaid suspension for McAdams through the fall 2016 semester.
However, Marquette University President Michael Lovell added three requirements before McAdams could be reinstated: McAdams would have to accept the judgment of his peers, commit to the standards of higher education at Marquette, and acknowledge that his blog post was reckless and incompatible with Marquette’s mission. He was also expected to express regret for the alleged harm suffered by Abbate.
McAdams refused, effectively ending his employment at Marquette. A Milwaukee County Circuit Court ruled in March against McAdams when he sued to get his job back, deferring to the judgment of the faculty committee that McAdams should not have named Abbate in his blog post because of the emails that were sent afterwards. WILL contends that the faculty committee, “suffered from serious procedural flaws, as Marquette withheld evidence from McAdams and allowed a clearly-biased professor” to serve on the committee.
Marquette’s treatment of McAdams has received national attention as an important case in the discussion of academic freedom and campus free speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has twice listed Marquette University as one of the ten worst colleges for free speech because of the McAdams case, and the organization has been critical of other free speech issues at the university.