Why I am no longer donating to my alma mater, Marquette University

Like every school's  alum, I receive constant requests to donate to the cause. I often do--rather, I should say, did--but no more to Marquette University, where I graduated with a degree in Journalism in 1963.

The reason: Marquette's ironic use of "freedom of thought and expression"as a club  to silence a professor, Dr. John McAdams. McAdams, a tenured political science professor, had used his blog to report about how a graduate teaching assistant "invited"  a student who was opposed to gay marriage to drop the course if he didn't like to be told that could not make "homophobic comments" in class.

McAdamsOf course, it's much more complicated than that,  so I advise everyone to read the 15-page letter from Dean Richard Holz of the Klinger College of Arts and Sciences to McAdams, advising him that steps were being taken to revoke his tenure and fire him.

To paraphrase, it rationalizes McAdams' firing by portraying the instructor, Cheryl Abbate, as the victim, and not the student who, in a subservient role, was pressured to shut up. Holz (paraphrasing again) wants to fire McAdams for exposing Abbate's own effort to "intimidate and silence the less powerful." Dean Holz apparently didn't see the irony.

Never mind that the student didn't make any such remarks while in class, nor in an after-class meeting with the Abbate. The student did make clear his opposition to same-sex marriage (the same position as the Catholic Church's). Here's the nut of the conversation, transcribed from the student's recording of the meeting:

Abbate: Ok, there are some opinions that are not appropriate that are harmful, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions, and quite honestly, do you know if anyone in the class is homosexual?

Student: No, I don't.

Abbate: And don't you think that that would be offensive to them if you were to raise your hand and challenge this?

Student: If I choose to challenge this, it's my right as an American citizen.

Abbate: Ok, well, actually you don't have a right in this class, as --especially as an ethics professor to make homophobic comments, racist comments, sexist comments ...

Student: Homophobic comments? They're not. I'm not saying that gays, that one guy can't like another girl or something like that. Or, one guy can't like another guy.

Abbate: This is about restricting rights and liberties of individuals. Um and just as I would take offense if women can't serve in XYZ positions because that is a sexist comment.

Student: I don't have any problem with women saying that. I don't have any problem with women joining anything like that.

Abbate: No, I'm saying that if you are going to make a comment like that, it would be similar to making a ....

Student: Absolutely.

Abbate: How I would experience would be similar to how someone who is in this room and who is homosexual who would experience someone criticizing this.

Student: Ok, so because they are homosexuat I can't have my opinions? And it's not being offensive towards them because I am just having my opinions on a very broad subject.

Abbate: You can have whatever opinions you want but I can tell you right now, in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, and sexist comments will not be tolerated. If you don't like that you are more than free to drop this class.

Student: So, are you saying that not agreeing with gay marriage is homophobic?

Abbate: To argue about that individuals should not have rights is going to be offensive to someone in this class.

"...offensive to someone in this class." There you have it. You can't take a legitimate position espoused by your faith--at a Catholic University--if someone in the class finds it "offensive"--the great sin that is so vaguely defined as to have no specificity at all.

It's a point that McAdams made in the post on his blog "Marquette Warrior" entitled "Marquette Philosophy Instructor: 'Gay Rights' Can't Be Discussed in Class Since Any Disagreement Would Offend Gay Students (the entire text is reproduced in the Holz letter). As he wrote:

The point being, apparently, that any gay classmates should not be subjected to hearing any disagreement with their presumed policy views [My emphasis]....

 Abbate, of course, was just using a tactic typical among liberals now. Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed "offensive" and need to be shut up.

Holz said that the post resulted in "vulgar, vile, and threatening communications to Ms. Abbate." He said McAdams violated the school's policy by naming the instructor. Indeed, McAdams seems rightfully accused of several policy violations on some side issues. And the student recorded the conversation without Abbate's permission.

But McAdams dismissal comes down to this:

Your Department Chair recently detailed for the Dean of Arts & Sciences how your conduct has contributed to a culture of intolerance, threatened the practice of academic freedom, and often targeted women and those "in a lower position of power in academic standing at Marquette" than yourself. It thus is the consensus of your Department peers that you do significant damage to the University community.

While you claim simply to be ensuring the exercise of academic freedom, your irresponsible conduct has the opposite effect. The AAUP's 1994 Statement on Freedom of Expression and Campus Speech Codes stressed the faculty's major role in preserving the freedom of thought and expression that is essential to any institution of higher learning: "their actions may set examples for understanding, making clear to their students that civility and tolerance are hallmarks of educated men and women."

Civility and tolerance. Offensive speech. Hurt feelings.

What has the idea of a university come to at my alma mater?

Does not the Marquette faculty understand that the administration also has a "major role  in preserving the freedom of thought and expression that is essential to any institution of higher learning..?"

I know that my humble contributions to Marquette University over the years will be regarded as a pittance, and that a post on my obscure blog won't change any minds. But with the suspension and firing of McAdams, I'm not changing my mind either.

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  • Would the Tribune print a letter to the editor that contained vile homophobic remarks?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    But that's the point. There were no vile, homophobic remarks.

  • The link to the 15-page letter written by Dean Holz does not work, but a portion of what you quote leads one to believe that the issue is larger than Prof. McAdams' comments about the practices of one graduate teaching assistant.
    "Your Department Chair recently detailed for the Dean of Arts & Sciences how your conduct has contributed to a culture of intolerance, threatened the practice of academic freedom, and often targeted women and those 'in a lower position of power in academic standing at Marquette' than yourself. It thus is the consensus of your Department peers that you do significant damage to the University community."

  • In reply to jnorto:

    The link works for me. But here's another one to try: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4jS38HQ3f8dSDhNX1FQRnlpcTQ/edit?pli=1

    Of course, there's more to it, as I said in the post. You have to read the letter to get the full sense of what was happening. Both sides can be criticized, but here I am focusing on the firing itself and how the university itself is contributing "to a culture of intolerance" threatening "the practice of academic freedom" and targeted a student who is "in a lower position of power in an academic standing."

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    I'm with you, Dennis. I no longer give to MU (I'm an '81 grad). Other disturbing trends are in evidence--I also heard that MU law students are required to give legal aid to pro-abortion organizations, like Planned Parenthood.

    There are in fact gay people who are not in favor if gay marriage. I wonder how Abbate would have handled this if the student told her he was gay.

    Marquette and other Catholic universities (Notre Dame) have abandoned their identity as faith-based institutions. The student in this case was being bullied. Now Dr. McAdams is being bullied.

    It's sad that it has turned out that Marquette is the bully.

  • In reply to icefalcon:

    For me, the first sign was when the administration felt compelled to dump "Warriors" in favor of "Golden Eagles." (What does Golden Eagles have anything to do with Marquette? At least "Explorers" would have been better. Except it might have offended some people because Father Marquette was a white man who was the vanguard of an "invasion.") My local high school's teams are called the "Spartans." It's not demeaning of the historic Spartans, but is a tribute to strength and courage. Could not Warriors have been taken in the same way? When I was a student there, that's how I took it. But I suppose that's typical of a white guy who lacks any measure of sensitivity--not knowing that I was offending an entire race.

  • Your second posted link works. As with you, I would encourage anyone interest to read the letter sent by Dean Holz. Page 2 summarizes the complaints about Prof. McAdams' conduct in this incident and page 14 discusses prior complaints against him going back to 2008 for publicizing his disagreements with named Marquette students. I think most people would agree that a professor who attempts to publicly humiliate students is engaging in questionable behavior.

    But this has not been finally determined by Dean Holz. The firing of Prof. McAdams has been referred to a faculty hearing committee which is to hold hearing on this. Meanwhile, you are free to give your money to whomever you wish.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Sure, just apologize for something you don't believe and you're forgiven. Wanna bet on what the Faculty Hearing Committee, under Section 307.07, will decide?

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