Not even the job security that is supposed to come with tenure is safe from the current climate of political correctness on college campuses. Professor John McAdams, a tenured professor at Marquette University, was fired after he wrote a blog post defending a student’s right to have a personal opinion. The post was in response to a different professor, who reportedly told the student not to express his opinion on same-sex marriage during class.
McAdams was put before a Faculty Hearing Committee to determine his fate after he published the post. McAdams contended that two members of the committee had conflicts of interest, but they weren’t removed. One had spoken negatively about him in public, according to The College Fix. Still, the committee recommended only to suspend McAdams. But Marquette President Michael Lovell said McAdams should apologize for his blog post or be fired. McAdams refused, and was terminated.
He later followed with a lawsuit against the Catholic university. His lawsuit claims that the professor he blogged about had listed a set of issues on the board during her philosophy class, one of which was “gay rights.” She told the class that “everybody agrees on this, and there is no need to discuss it.”
Everybody Does Not Agree
A conservative student approached the professor after class to say that not everyone agrees on this issue, and argued against gay marriage and gay adoption, stances consistent with Catholic teachings. The professor, according to McAdams’ lawsuit, argued with the student, noting single people can adopt a child and asking for research supporting the argument that gay parents are bad for children.
“So far, this is the sort of argument that ought to happen in academia,” McAdams wrote on his blog. Then, McAdams noted, things turned. The professor then allegedly told the students that “some opinions are not appropriate, such as racist opinions [and] sexist opinions.”
Further, the professor asked the student if he thought it would be “offensive” to gay students to hear him challenge gay marriage. “The point being,” McAdams wrote, “apparently that any gay classmates should not be subjected to hearing any disagreement with their presumed policy views.”
When the student said he had a right to make counterarguments, the professor said “homophobic comments, racist comments, will not be tolerated” and suggested the student drop the class, which he did. McAdams went on to discuss the implications of the professor’s actions, and how this professor assumed the offense on behalf of certain groups, independent of what the individuals in those groups say they think. The administrators to whom the student complained made similar statements involving political correctness.
We Punish Free Speech that Supports Catholic Ideas
McAdams’ blog post wasn’t antagonistic, yet he was reprimanded and told to apologize or be fired. Refusing to kowtow to political correctness, for standing up for students’ rights to have a counter opinion (the student appeared to simply provide counter arguments, rather than gross generalizations), cost him his job as a tenured professor.
McAdams published the instigating blog post on November 9, 2014. He was notified on December 16, 2014, that he was placed on administrative leave with pay until further notice. Throughout 2015, McAdams defended himself through the disciplinary process. On January 18, 2016, more than a year after his blog post, the school decided to suspend him.
He filed his lawsuit on May 2 of that year. Now, a year later, a circuit court judge has ruled Marquette could fire McAdams over the blog post, noting that “Dr. McAdams’ rights to academic freedom and freedom of expression were not violated.” Um, okay. The judge ruled that because McAdams had named the other professor in his blog post, she could receive negative attention.
“No college professor in Wisconsin has any real protection if that’s the standard,” said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which is defending McAdams. “If a professor can be held responsible for the actions of every person who reads or even hears about what the professor writes, then they have no protections at all. By that standard, every professor who was publicly critical of McAdams should be fired too.”
Professors are increasingly becoming afraid of politically correct students. In the most famous case, a liberal professor wrote at Vox that he was terrified of saying things that might offend his students, and he had no way of predicting what might offend them because political correctness shifts constantly and quickly. Anonymous letters from other professors proclaiming similar terrors also abound.
Not even tenured professors appear safe anymore. With colleges pumping out PhDs left and right, there’s a buyer’s market for colleges who want well-credentialed professors. This could lead to minor “offenses” like McAdams’ being blown into larger issues. He could easily be replaced by any of the hundreds of PhDs who conform to liberal ideology.
McAdams is still fighting his termination. His next step is the appeals court, which should hopefully defend his rights to academic expression.