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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

John McAdams officially rejects punishment, alumni group criticizes President Lovell

John McAdams. Wire stock photo.
Photo by Wire stock photo
John McAdams. Wire stock photo.

Suspended Political Science Professor John McAdams officially rejected University President Michael Lovell’s punishment for him after his role in a 2014 controversy, and a conservative alumni group is questioning the way Lovell is handling the situation.

Lovell told Marquette faculty, staff and McAdams on March 24 that he would allow McAdams to resume teaching after a suspension without pay but with benefits through the fall 2016 semester. In addition, Lovell said McAdams needs to submit a letter by April 4 to apologize for his previous conduct, admitting he was wrong and promising he won’t act similarly again.

McAdams sent his response in a five-page letter to Lovell on April 5. In it he rejects the punishments and wants Lovell to rescind them by April 14.

Rick Esenberg, McAdams’ lawyer, said, “I am loathe to make judgments ahead of the fact,” referring to creating a plan if Lovell doesn’t rescind the punishment. McAdams said previously that he will sue Marquette if it tries to fire him.

“I can say that litigation seems likely,” Esenberg said in an email.

In response to McAdams’ letter to Lovell, University Spokesman Brian Dorrington said, “Professor McAdams’ suspension is continuing. We don’t have further information to add.”

Alumni group’s response

The Louis Joliet Society is a group that describes itself on its website as “alumni, parents, associates and friends helping to rediscover authentic Catholic identity at Marquette University.”

The group published a Facebook post April 3 that said “the university’s increasingly unhinged reaction to the McAdams affair has been revealing … and not in a good way.”

The post contains screenshots of an email exchange between Louis Joliet Society contributor Ron McCamy and Lovell.

“May I share with you my profound disappointment in the way in which Marquette administrators, and some faculty, have handled the McAdams case?” McCamy said in his email to Lovell.

Lovell’s response stated, “Have you read the 123-page report written by seven of his peers who investigated the issue? If not, you should refrain from judgement in the case as most of the information available in the public domain is not accurate.”

The report Lovell mentioned is not available to the public, according to McAdams and Esenberg.

Controversy background

The controversy started November 2014 when McAdams published a post on his blog Marquette Warrior, detailing a disagreement between former teaching assistant Cheryl Abbate and one of her students.

Abbate’s Theory of Ethics class was discussing philosopher John Rawls’ Liberty Principle, which says every person has an equal right to the most extensive liberties compatible with similar liberties for all.

“When one student suggested that a ban on gay marriage violated the principle, Abbate quickly moved on to the next topic, as there were more nuanced examples to discuss before the end of class,” 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 had not considered his classmate’s example about gay marriage, according to the student’s recording of the conversation.

“The student said he had seen data suggesting that children of gay parents ‘do a lot worse in life,’ and that the topic merited more conversation,” according to Inside Higher Education.

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” and that it is the student’s “right as an American citizen” to challenge the idea. Abbate said the student didn’t “have the right, especially (in an ethics class,) to make homophobic comments or racist comments,” according to the recording.

Abbate received threats and criticism for her actions, leading her to transfer from Marquette to the University of Colorado-Boulder.

In December 2014, the College of Arts & Sciences announced that McAdams would be suspended with pay and banned from campus while a conduct review of the situation took place. Shortly after, McAdams was notified that Marquette was starting the process of potentially firing him and taking away his tenure. This process led to the Faculty Hearing Committee meetings last fall where a 123-page report was made for Lovell to aid him in deciding McAdams’ punishment.

McAdams said he is Protestant and against gay marriage. However, he said the controversy resulted from him pushing for free speech and academic freedom – not anti-gay marriage views.

“I would have blogged about a professor trying to suppress pro-gay marriage views,” McAdams said. “It’s a university, you should be free to face something you disagree with.”

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  • M

    Mary JarvisApr 13, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    1. No laws were broken.
    2. Student X DID first go to a.) the College of Arts & Sciences and b.) the Philosophy Department to try to resolve the matter. He was ignored (and treated quite poorly by the Philo department.)
    3. He went to Dr. McAdams only after all this. He went because he had to in order to drop the class as Ms. Abbate recommended he do.
    4. Dr. McAdams interest in the case was and is that it is classic example of what is going wrong in higher education across the country today: political correctness usurping the sincere pursuit of truth. This is something we should all be concerned about.
    5. Dr. Lovell/Marquette administration’s erratic reaction to this case — attack, hide, attack, hide — over the past 15 months can only damage the University and, obviously, is. They should have either fired the man outright because they believed he was worthy of being fired or reinstated him and been done with this. No Marquette is well past the point of being damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
    6. The “Call for Decency” tactic was an embarrassingly transparent passive-aggressive attempt to slime Dr. McAdams which served only to make Dr. Lovell look like a petulant child. It is also — by its deliberate use of innuendo and vague allegations — a sin: thou shall not bear false witness.

  • F

    Francis SchmidtApr 11, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Dr. John McAdams may regard himself as a free-speech martyr, but he’s nowhere close.

    (1) Ms. Cheryl Abbate was in charge of her class, subject to the Philosophy Dept’s policies. It wasn’t his place to butt in, since he was not a member of her department, and had no supervisory responsibility for the class.

    (2) If he were truly concerned about Ms. Abatte’s teaching, the proper way to deal with this was to pursue a remedy through her department, the Dean, Provost and President if necessary. It’s called due process, and, in fact, he himself benefited from it during the disciplinary hearing.

    (3) He either knew that publicizing Ms. Abbate’s name on his blog guaranteed that she would be subject to abuse and threats, or he was too dumb to know it.

    (4) Real academics pick on someone their own size. This was bullying, pure and simple.

    (5) The Faculty Responsibility Committee presumably had access to the recording. if it vindicated him, why didn’t they say so? Or are they also part of the “liberal anti-free-speech conspiracy.

    (6) It would be hard to imagine that Dr. McAdams hasn’t received a copy of the Committee report. He could release it if he so chose. Why hasn’t he?

    The Faculty Responsibility Committee did its job. End of story.

    Francis J (Frank) Schmidt, Arts ’68
    Professor of Biochemistry
    University of Missouri

  • F

    FlameCCTApr 11, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Truly sad that a President of a university, especially one associated with the Catholic Church, blatantly lies to faculty, students, alumni, and parents.

    I would note that Abbate was NOT a TA, she was a paid instructor for the class. She had full control of the curriculum, coursework, content, and students with no monitoring like a graduate TA. She also happened to be an graduate student. Lovell also lied about the recommendations of the Faculty Hearing Panel instead of using their recommendations, he doubled down on his blatant attempt to remove McAdams.

  • N

    Nancy D.Apr 9, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    This controversy has become a controversy because the Administration of Marquette University has refrained from witnessing to The Catholic Church’s teaching on The Sacrament of Marriage as defined by Christ, and has thus failed to uphold their fiduciary duty to witness to The Deposit of Faith.
    The Catholic Church has always taught that the marital act is Life-affirming, and Life-sustaining, and can only be consummated between a man and woman, united in marriage as husband and wife. The Catholic Church’s teaching on conjugal Love is grounded in respect for the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person as a beloved son or daughter.
    It is because Christ and His Church Love and respect your Dignity as a beloved son or daughter, that we cannot condone the engaging in or affirmation of any act, including any sexual act that demeans your inherent Dignity as a beloved son or daughter. The desire to engage in a demeaning act of any nature, does not change the nature of the act. We Love you, and because we Love you, we desire that you will always be treated with, and will always treat others with Dignity and respect in private as well as in public. We will not tolerate the engaging in or condoning of sexual behavior that does not reflect the upmost respect for the human person.

  • M

    mazos burgerApr 9, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    marquette should be ashamed of itself. once again it has made a mess of things. michael lovell is like mussolini

  • D

    David PatrickApr 7, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Maybe McAdams should have thought before he broke federal law about students and targeted female students for harassment.

    Maybe McAdams should have thought before he broke federal law about students and started calling female students’ parents to harass the students.

    Maybe McAdams is a misogynist old bastard who should have been fired long ago anyways.