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.
Of 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 ....
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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