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Students protest for both sides of John McAdams controversy

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John McAdams, associate professor of political science

John McAdams, associate professor of political science

Two groups of students faced off in demonstrations on campus Monday morning, taking both sides of the controversy surrounding the university’s decision to ban political science professor John McAdams from campus.

An estimated 30 to 40 students, many from the conservative group Turning Point USA, appeared in front of Zilber Hall to protest Marquette, which relieved McAdams of his teaching duties with pay last week while it reviewed his conduct after he criticized teaching assistant Cheryl Abbate for not allowing discussion of gay marriage in an ethics class.

“Overall, we’re protesting a teacher who was suspended for free speech,” said J.R. O’Rourke, president of Marquette’s Turning Point chapter. “I really think the university has to tread water very carefully. It gives Marquette a really bad image.”

Another group of graduate students demonstrated a block away from Turning Point, supporting Abbate and criticizing McAdams for comments he made against Abbate on his blog, “Marquette Warrior.”

“We are aware of a small number of protesters representing multiple viewpoints today,” said university spokesman Brian Dorrrington. “From the university’s standpoint, our review continues and during this time, professor McAdams has been relieved of his teaching duties.”

O’Rourke also said that McAdams’ classes for the spring semester have been cancelled. The College of Arts & Sciences has not confirmed the cancelation of McAdams’ classes but they are not listed on the university snapshot for spring 2015.

The two protests came a week after news emerged that Abbate decided to transfer from Marquette next month to the University of Colorado-Boulder, according to a blog for philosophy professionals called Daily Nous.

Abbate submitted a statement to the Daily Nous:

“Although the past month has been a very difficult and distressing time for me, the support and encouragement I have received from philosophers around the world has made this all the more bearable. I would like to thank each and every individual who sent a personal message to me, sent a letter to the Marquette administration on my behalf, and/or signed one of the online statements of support.”

The Daily Nous, maintained by Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, noted that Abbate had received hate mail and threats as a result of the incident.

A number of philosophy professionals, including the graduate student organization at Harvard University, have submitted letters in support of Abbate to Richard Holz, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

Marquette submitted a statement to media on the issue of its graduate students: “Marquette University wants to emphasize that all of our graduate student teaching assistants are students first. As students, they are learning their craft and it is our expectation that they are mentored and supported by our faculty.”

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5 Comments

5 Responses to “Students protest for both sides of John McAdams controversy”

  1. Hopalong on January 6th, 2015 9:58 pm

    There is not a lot of ambiguity here. McAdams behaved badly, in needlessly using the graduate student’s name; but there is certainly no clear-cut rule about it; and he used it in expressing an opinion on a controversial issue–an activity that cannot be held to exacting standards of etiquette. He should be chastised. He cannot be fired.

  2. Mary on January 16th, 2015 2:37 pm

    McAdams did not behave badly. He wrote a critique of an adjunct violating the documented rights of a student in her classroom. Rights aren’t a one way street, and she showed poor judgement. Abbate’s syllabus declared that such discussions were part of the curriculum, but when a student who wished to express an opinion that ran counter to her own she censored him, threatened him and told him if he didn’t like it he could leave. Abbate was in the role of teacher, she violated a student’s rights.. she has no right to whine that her name was mentioned. Marquette allowing such discrimination should not be allowed to receive taxpayer funding

  3. Rusty on January 17th, 2015 6:34 am

    With all due respect, you have no idea what you’re talking about, Mary. McAdams wrote a story about a student filled with falsehoods meant to stir up the troglodytes who look to him for guidance. When a student wishes to express an irrelevant opinion, especially one informed by a poor scholarly source, that student does not have a right to make such a statement. Whether or not Rawls’s Equal Liberty Principle applies to a particular law is not a matter of opinion and whether or not you like a law which the principle would prohibit is irrelevant as to whether or not it would, in fact, prohibit it. Abbate did not tell him to leave the class if he didn’t like being threatened and his opinions being censored, she told him that he’s able to leave the class if he doesn’t feel he can abide by Marquette policy which would prohibit making statements that are homophobic, racist, sexist, etc., which is true. This has nothing to do with the undergraduate student’s rights and everything to do with an undergraduate who doesn’t know the difference between a normative ethical principle and an opinion on public policy as well as a tenured professor who seems to derive sadistic pleasure from knowingly putting innocent people in the pillory. Anything short of McAdam’s losing his job would be added disgrace to the disgrace of Marquette having had him as a faculty member at all.

    Further, Mary, you wade into potentially libelous waters by making such unsubstantiated and demonstrably false claims about Abbate’s actions which, if true, would reflect poorly on her professional competence.

  4. Stephen Lowe on January 17th, 2015 1:09 pm

    If philosophers can not critic each other without punishment, what the heck is the point? Marquette ought to be reclassified as a kindergarten school.

  5. Rusty on January 17th, 2015 2:06 pm

    This wasn’t a case of philosophers critiquing each other, it was a case of an undergraduate getting upset because he wasn’t allowed to derail a classroom conversation. Whether or not a specific principle would support a ban on gay marriage has nothing to do with whether you or anyone else supports or opposes gay marriage.

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