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EDITORIAL: MU must undertake all issues of McAdams situation

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John McAdams, associate professor of political science

John McAdams, associate professor of political science

While the incident that brought up issues with classroom discussion and freedom of speech was between a Marquette undergraduate and Cheryl Abbate, now former graduate student, political science professor John McAdams has been at the center of university debate and is evidently losing his job in light of his third party participation.

Through his blog, the Marquette Warrior, McAdams addressed the story in November, including his personal outlook on the issue. The post whipped up a frenzy on campus and amongst alumni and the greater public about whether Marquette is or is not acting as a Catholic Jesuit university. For his reports, McAdams came under university review and was subsequently barred from teaching or being on campus during the process.

McAdams shared the university’s course of action on his blog Feb. 4, stating that he would be stripped of his tenure and terminated. One would think this was the last act in a drawn-out academic drama, but it continues to unravel as McAdams remains outspoken over the case and the university is left to answer for everything.

University President Michael Lovell released a statement Feb. 4 through the university Facebook page, broadly verifying McAdams’ post and attempting to clarify the situation, which has led to many different interpretations.

“The decisions here have everything to do with our Guiding Values and expectations of conduct toward each other and nothing to do with academic freedom, freedom of speech, or same-sex marriage,” read Lovell’s statement.

It was also divulged that the decision to terminate McAdams was ultimately made for the sake of students and the university’s academic environment.

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University President Michael Lovell issued a statement on Facebook Wednesday.

The Facebook post was intended to shed more perspective on the proceedings and ramifications of the course of events, but it remains vague about the proceedings and what will happen next. Lovell obviously cannot publicly disclose university matters of personnel, explaining the what, how and why of everything, but more needs to be said about what will happen from this point forward.

Yes, it is right to reaffirm the university mission and its dedication to students in light of a troubling conflict, yet it does not help calm the situation which McAdams has been adamant to stir up.

Though he may have done so in an offensive, rude manner, McAdams inspired widespread debate which Lovell and the university need to address. Holding McAdams accountable for his actions is one thing, but it is also necessary to account for the issues the incident brought up rather than say they had no part in the decision and ignore them. The public has capitalized on the points of free speech and academic freedom and the university would do best to take up these subjects in order to put the greater matter to rest.

The university needs to handle the circumstances and take control of further discussion on campus. McAdams has little to lose by sharing his side of the story, and his view is dominating the narrative. Marquette’s administration must take back control of the proceedings to maintain the university’s image as a place where topics are addressed rather than ignored.

The explanation that the university acted on behalf of its students can be interpreted in many different ways by the public, so it is important to back that up with a dedicated resolve. Rather than let McAdams shout himself hoarse at the public, the university can take this situation in stride and use it to foster further dialogue about how individuals are treated here.

Considering the situation first started in early November, the university has had plenty of opportunities to do take action outside of its vague Facebook post. Now is the time to be proactive, even if it is a little after the fact.

Perhaps the story will die out soon, yet this should be on the terms of the university and not left up to a professor with an ax to grind.

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “EDITORIAL: MU must undertake all issues of McAdams situation”

  1. Hopalong on February 9th, 2015 12:42 pm

    The university community should actually read the statements by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP); they are posted on McAdams’ website. They make it very clear that, however rude or inconsiderate McAdams was, the university has egregiously violated due process (including by ignoring its own regulations), and is headed toward a serious and obvious violation of academic freedom. FIRE and AAUP are the two most respected organizations dealing with issues of academic freedom–the AAUP is the principal source of standards that essentially all universities incorporate in their regulations. Marquette is at this point one of the few most notorious examples in the country of reckless violation of academic freedom–featured prominently on the FIRE and AAUP websites. And it is hard to avoid the expectation that it will end up losing the case, decisively, and at great cost, in court.

    Paul Quirk, MU Arts and Sciences, 1971
    Professor of Political Science
    University of British Columbia

  2. Paul Quirk on February 10th, 2015 4:28 pm

    See also the thorough and even-handed analysis (including criticism of McAdams) by Conor Friedersdorf, the media and journalism writer for the distinguished liberal magazine, The Atlantic:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/stripping-a-professor-of-tenure-over-a-blog-post/385280/

    He writes: “Academics all over the United States ought to denounce the firing of [McAdams]…. If tenure can be taken away based upon one controversial blog post, what protection does it offer?” He recounts the evidence and issues in careful detail, including lengthy quotations from the key documents.

    Paul Quirk, MU Arts and Sciences, 1971
    Professor of Political Science
    University of British Columbia

  3. Louis Joliet Society on February 11th, 2015 1:51 pm

    And in all the concern for the safety and well-being of students, why is no mention ever made by the university of the student who was told to drop a philosophy class because his views were not welcome there and might be deemed by some to be homophobic? What of the many students who had to scramble over Christmas break to adjust their second semester schedules after their political science classes with Dr. McAdams were suddenly cancelled? What of those students and alumni who have to explain to questioning family and friends why their Catholic university, which has staunchly refused to fire heretical (i.e. pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage) theology teachers on the basis of tenure and academic freedom, is now canning one of its most successful tenured associate professors because … because … because he was a meanie? Marquette is disgracing itself by this action, and “official statements” consisting of nothing more than politically-correct platitudes only makes matters worse.

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