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Marquette U moves to fire prof who blogged about teaching assistant stifling gay marriage debate

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Marquette University announced that it has initiated proceedings to revoke the tenure of and fire a conservative professor for a blog post he wrote about a graduate teaching assistant, Inside Higher Ed‘s Scott Jaschik reports.

On Novermber 9, 1014, Professor John McAdams composed a post in which he detailed a conversation a conservative student had with teaching assistant Cheryl Abbate in a “Theory of Ethics” course. During the conversation, Abbate attempted to explain to the student — whose name McAdams did not publish because protecting anonymous sources “is Journalism 1010” — that certain topics needed to be addressed in a manner that would not offend other students.

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According to Abbate, the topic the student attempted to broach — gay marriage — was tangential to the class’s discussion on philosopher John Rawl’s equal liberty principle, but McAdams contended that she was “using a tactic typical among liberals,” in which dissenting opinions “are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”

Dean Richard C. Holz — in the letter he sent to McAdams informing him of the proceedings against him — wrote that as a result of having her name attached to McAdams’ post, Abbate “received a series of hate-filled and despicable e-mails, including one suggesting that she had committed ‘treason and sedition’ and as a result faced penalties such as ‘drawing, hanging, beheading, and quartering.”

“Another note, delivered to her campus mailbox, told the student, ‘You must undo the terrible wrong committed when you were born. Your mother failed to make the right choice. You must abort yourself for the glory of inclusiveness and tolerance.’ Accordingly, and understandably, the student feared for her personal safety, and we posted a Public Safety Officer outside her classroom,” Holz wrote.

“In addition, as a result of your conduct and its consequences, Ms. Cheryl Abbate now has withdrawn from our graduate program and moved to another university to continue her academic career.”

In that letter, the university insisted that firing would not violate the principals of academic freedom, because the actions being taken against McAdams related to repeated professional misconduct, not freedom of expression.

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“In order to endure, a scholar-teacher’s academic freedom must be grounded on competence and integrity, including accuracy ‘at all times,’ a respect for others’ opinions, and the exercise of appropriate restraint,” Holz argued.

“Without adherence to these standards, those such as yourself invested with tenure’s power can carelessly and arrogantly intimidate and silence the less-powerful and then raise the shields of academic freedom and free expression against all attempts to stop such abuse.”

Or, as one subhead in the letter stated, “Your Prior Similar Reckless and Irresponsible Acts, Together With Your Taking Pride from the Impacts of Your Current Conduct, Preclude the Lesser Sanctions of Reprimand or Suspension.”

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On the Academe Blog, John K. Wilson vehemently disagreed, writing that “[o]ne can conclude that McAdams is a terrible journalist, and a terrible person, and that changes nothing about the threat of academic freedom created by this dismissal, and the lack of any basis for it under Marquette’s policies.”

McAdams, for his part, has vowed that he “will indeed fight this. We have excellent legal counsel, and most certainly will not go quietly.”

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Watch a report on the proceedings against McAdams via WDJT below.


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