John McAdams suspended, banned from MU for conduct review

John McAdams, associate professor of political science
John McAdams, associate professor of political science

John McAdams, associate professor of political science, said on his blog Tuesday that he is suspended with pay and banned from campus as Marquette reviews his conduct after he criticized a teaching assistant for a disagreement she had with a student about gay marriage.

McAdams described the university requiring to remain off campus during the review as being “treated like a terrorist.”

“Whether Marquette officials really want to punish us for blogging, or whether they simply feel the need for a pro forma ‘investigation’ of changes someone has brought, we don’t know,” McAdams said in his post. “Either would be gross misconduct on the part of Marquette officials.”

The incident that led to McAdam’s suspension occurred during a Theory of Ethics class when philosophy doctoral student Cheryl Abbate and an unidentified student had a disagreement about gay marriage in an ethics class.

When one student suggested that a ban on gay marriage violated John Rawls’ equal liberty principle, Abbate quickly moved on to the next topic, according to an article from Inside Higher Education.

Another student approached Abbate after that class and said he was “very disappointed” and “personally offended” that she did not consider his classmate’s example about gay marriage, according to the student’s recording of the conversation, which Insider Higher Education obtained.

Abbate disagreed, according to the student’s recording, and the conversation ended with the student saying, “It’s still wrong for the teacher of a class to completely discredit one person’s opinion when they may have different opinions.”

Abbate responded that the student didn’t “have the right, especially (in an ethics class) to make homophobic comments or racist comments,” according to the recording. She also invited the student to drop her class if he disagreed.

McAdams then criticized Abbate on his blog, “Marquette Warrior,” which was picked up by multiple national news organizations. The event also spurred the Westboro Baptist Church to picket on campus Dec. 8.

Marquette announced Dec. 1 that it was reviewing the widely publicized incident. McAdams said he was told about the investigation at a meeting with Richard Holz, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, before Thanksgiving Break.

“We are taking appropriate steps to make sure that everyone involved is heard and treated fairly,” said university spokesman Brian Dorrington at the time the review was announced. “In compliance with state and federal privacy laws, we will not publicly share details, including the results of the reviews.”

In response to the news of McAdam’s suspension, members of Turning Point USA, a conservative youth-based group with a chapter on campus, have expressed support for the professor.

“In effort to have a case for free speech, our organization will be fighting on behalf of Dr. John McAdams in an effort to make sure that his employment is not affected by his personal views,” said John O’Rourke, president of the campus Turning Point.

The organization is planning to hold a protest on Monday morning in front of Zilber Hall, tentatively around 10 a.m. About 100 people are expected to be in attendance, including the founder of Turning Point USA Charlie Kirk. The Marquette chapter of the organization has also set up an online petition.

This story has been updated since its original posting to include a response from Turning Point USA.