Academic Freedom under Fire at Marquette

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

To its undying credit, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has questioned whether the academic freedom of a Catholic professor at a Jesuit university was violated.

“Dr. John McAdams, associate professor of political science at Marquette University, has sought the assistance of the American Association of University Professors as a result of having been informed, by letter of December 16, 2014, that the university was suspending him with pay ‘until further notice’ from his teaching responsibilities ‘and all other faculty activities’ and banning him from campus,” Gregory F. Scholtz of the AAUP wrote in a letter to Marquette’s president.  “The letter, from Dr. Richard C. Holz, dean of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, stated, without further elaboration, that the suspension was pending a review of his ‘conduct.’

“Responding by letter of December 22, Professor McAdams’s attorney stated that the university had not followed its own regulations governing suspension of a faculty member-in particular, that the university must provide the faculty member with notice of cause for a suspension-and that Professor McAdams had done nothing to warrant this sanction.

“Dean Holz replied by letter of January 2 with an explanation of the grounds for the suspension: ‘Your recent actions in publicizing on the internet the name of our now-former graduate student . . . require University review.’ In a November 9 post in his blog, ‘Marquette Warrior,’ Professor McAdams had criticized a graduate teaching assistant for telling one of her students in a private conversation, surreptitiously recorded by the student, that she would not tolerate expressions of opposition to gay marriage in her classroom. Dean Holz charged that, because of Professor McAdams’s ‘unilateral, dishonorable, and irresponsible decision to publicize’ her name, the teaching assistant had ‘received a series of hate-filled and despicable emails’ which caused her to fear for her safety and, eventually, to transfer to another university. ‘You have been asked, advised, and warned not to publicize students’ names in connection with your blog posts,’ the dean wrote. ‘With this latest example of unprofessional and irresponsible conduct we have no confidence that you will live up to any additional assurances on your part that you will respect and protect our students. . . . Accordingly, we are continuing our review of your conduct and considering all appropriate responses.’

“Professor McAdams’s attorney replied to Dean Holz’s letter in a January 21 letter addressed to university counsel. He defended the propriety of Professor McAdams’s conduct, asserted that it was protected by academic freedom, and called ‘preposterous’ a recent statement by a university spokesperson that Professor McAdams’s suspension and banishment from campus was necessitated by concern for the ‘safety’ of students. The attorney also noted that the terms ‘dishonorable’ and ‘irresponsible’ employed by the dean to characterize Professor McAdams’s conduct are both to be found among grounds for dismissal for cause in Section 306.03 of the Faculty Statutes.

“We understand that, as of this writing, Professor McAdams’s suspension remains in effect and that the administration has given no indication of when it will end.”