Marquette Wire

Judge rules in favor of Marquette over McAdams

The+Wisconsin+Supreme+Court+will+hear+the+McAdams+case+this+Thursday.+Marquette+Wire+stock+photo.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear the McAdams case this Thursday. Marquette Wire stock photo.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear the McAdams case this Thursday. Marquette Wire stock photo.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear the McAdams case this Thursday. Marquette Wire stock photo.

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A Milwaukee County judge issued a decision against John McAdams in favor of the university, dismissing all claims from his lawsuit filed May 2016, challenging the decisions of Marquette’s Faculty Hearing Committee.

McAdams, an associate professor of political science, announced he will be appealing the ruling on his blog, “The Marquette Warrior.”

He was suspended without pay in 2014 after he publicly called out a graduate student by name on his blog for her actions in a Theory of Ethics class. 

University President Michael Lovell said he would reinstate McAdams to teach if he met requirements, stating he would have to write a letter apologizing for his actions. McAdams rejected the offer, saying his contract with Marquette was violated for not protecting his freedom of speech.

In a 33-page document, the judge discussed how academic freedom, a pivotal idea in McAdams case, works both ways. 

“Academic freedom allows both faculty members and students to engage in intellectual debate without fear or censorship or retaliation and it establishes a faculty member’s right to remain true to his or her pedagogical philosophy and intellectual commitments,” the judge said. “Academic freedom also gives both students and faculty the right to express their views without fear of sanction, unless the manner of expression substantially impairs the rights of others. On the other hand, academic freedom does not mean that a faculty member can harass, threaten, intimidate, ridicule, or impose his or her views on students.”

McAdams’ blog post talks with Rick Esenberg, McAdam’s lawyer and president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

Esenberg said if this is the standard being set by the court, then no college professor has protection.

“This is another example of the increasing unwillingness of colleges to stand up for free speech. Hardly a day passes without an example of a speaker being shouted down, or disinvited, or a student being punished for some innocuous (but politically incorrect) comment on social media,” McAdams said in his blog post.

In a statement, Lovell said today’s ruling reaffirms the university’s guiding values.

“We’ve maintained throughout this process that a personal attack on one of our students is simply unacceptable,” Lovell said. “We appreciate the court’s thoughtful consideration of the Faculty Hearing Committee’s work and findings. Dr. McAdams’ tenured peers on the Faculty Hearing Committee concluded, unanimously, that he breached his core duties as a Marquette professor when he used his blog needlessly and recklessly to harm a Marquette graduate student.  We are grateful that the court upheld Marquette’s actions.”

This story is developing.

This story was updated at 3:13 p.m., Thursday, May 4, 2017. 

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