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Theology professor defends John McAdams on grounds of ‘due process’

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Daniel Maguire, theology professor

Daniel Maguire, theology professor

Theology professor Daniel Maguire penned a letter to University President Michael Lovell addressing the lack of due process behind relieving political science professor John McAdams of his teaching duties as part of a College of Arts & Sciences conduct review.

Marquette faculty members have stayed silent regarding the widely-publicized disagreement over discussing same-sex marriage between former teaching assistant Cheryl Abbate and an unidentified student in her Theory of Ethics class. The student reported the incident to McAdams, who wrote about it and criticized Abbate on his blog, Marquette Warrior, which provoked the Westboro Baptist Church to picket campus in December.

The College of Arts & Sciences underwent a conduct review to assess the situation and relieved McAdams of his teaching duties and faculty activities with pay, asking him to stay off campus during the review. Maguire noted in the letter that he disagrees with McAdams on many issues, but that didn’t stop him from questioning the way McAdams is being treated, saying many minds should be free to compete in a university setting.

“My key objection is that action was taken against a professor without due process,” Maguire said. “I decided to write the letter because I’m a believer in due process. I’m a long term member of (the American Association of University Professors), which is really the premier of academic freedom and integrity. Their strongest process is due process.”

In the letter, Maguire describes McAdams’ banning from Marquette’s campus as “bizarre, demeaning and unjust.”

“In almost half a century in the academe, I have never seen a similar punishment imposed on a professor in this ‘blunt instrument’ fashion,” Maguire said in his letter.

Maguire goes on to explain how the handling of the widely publicized event affects Marquette’s reputation, in addition to questioning the continuity of due process.

“I believe you owe us more explanation that you have given on your decision on this matter.  Since reports on this situation have gotten national attention and stirred up remembrance of the Dr. Jodi O’Brien contract violation, Marquette’s reputation is affected.  We are all affected,” Maguire said in the letter. “The incident has a chilling effect on all members and staff since it implies that due-process protections may be brittle and uncertain at this university and specifically under your presidency.”

Maguire also shared his thoughts on Abbate, who was a Marquette graduate student during the incident, and a concern about the university’s graduate program.

“Apparently the graduate student has received very abusive emails, which are horrendous,” he said. “I don’t blame the student. We just throw (graduate students) into the classroom. There’s very little teaching them how to teach. I think there should be more mentoring of graduate student-teachers.”

The letter was sent to McAdams, who shared his thoughts about it on his blog. In the post, McAdams shares a portion of the letter stating he was “quite pleased” to have received it.

“Maguire has enjoyed the benefits of academic freedom at Marquette while supporting abortion and gay marriage,” McAdams said in the blog. “So in supporting our academic freedom, he’s being consistent. Yes, people coming from very different ideological perspectives can support the right of free expression for those who differ.”

Maguire also brings the overuse of adjunct professors to Lovell’s attention. Adjunct professors work part-time and are ineligible to receive tenure.

“You need independent scholars to have a university and you don’t have independence unless they have the protection of tenure,” Maguire said. “There is teaching going on but (adjunct professors) are not independent teachers. They have no security.”

The last issue Maguire mentions involves the rate of diversity on campus, and how it affects racial minorities. A student of his shared with an all-Caucasian class how uncomfortable it can be on campus as an African American.

The university said it stands by its decision and continues to investigate the incident.

“The university stands behind Dr. Holz’s correspondence on this matter,” said Brian Dorrington, a university spokesperson, in an email. “Our in-depth review is continuing.”

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