ON-Lion Letter

"'Be the difference' is the motto of Marquette University, the generally not-very-newsworthy Jesuit university in Milwaukee," begins a January article by Peter Wood in Minding the Campus.  "Marquette is in the news now for reasons that it cannot be very happy about."

Woods is president of the National Association of Scholars (NAS).  Minding the Campus is a project of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research 's Center for the American University.

"First a teaching assistant at the Catholic institution, Cheryl Abbate, a doctoral student in philosophy, was caught on tape earlier [last] year giving a very un-Catholic answer to a student who wanted to write about his objections to same-sex marriage in a course titled, 'Theory of Ethics,'" Wood continues.  "The student complained to an associate dean and to the chairman of the Philosophy Department, neither of whom saw a cause for concern.  The student then played the recording to a Marquette professor of political science, John McAdams, who after listening to the recording, blogged on November 9 about the incident, making some pointed criticisms of Abbate’s refusal to countenance the expression of opinions counter to her own."

Then, "[f]ollowing soon after [a] collective denunciation from his colleagues, McAdams received notice from Marquette’s Dean of Arts and Sciences, Richard C. Holz, that he was suspended (with pay).

"Professor McAdams responded by asking for help from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), which agreed to give him legal representation," Wood writes.  "On December 22, WILL wrote to Marquette’s president, Dr. Michael Lovell, pointing out that McAdams's suspension violated his rights as a tenured member of Marquette's faculty.  The letter from WILL described the letter from Dean Holz as 'a Kafkaesque document, telling Dr. McAdams that he is being investigated for some unnamed event that might violate some unidentified requirement of the university to be found somewhere in one of several documents enclosed with the letter.'  WILL also noted that when McAdams emailed Holz, 'asking what he was being charged with,' Holz did not even answer.

"Marquette’s official position, however, did shift," Wood recounts.  "A university spokesman claimed that McAdams was not 'suspended,' because the university is continuing to pay his salary while barring him from teaching, other faculty responsibilities, and setting foot on campus.  McAdams is supposed in the status of 'under review,' a status which WILL points out is nowhere mentioned in Marquette’s Faculty Statutes."

Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation supports both NAS and WILL.

"Professor McAdams is buffeted with declarations such as, 'Respect is at the heart of our commitment to the Jesuit tradition and Catholic social teaching,'" NAS's Wood concludes.  "Respect for what?  Seemingly not for truthfulness, candor, or transparency.  Marquette is a private university and is free, of course, to shrug off criticism like this.  But it does appear, at least among its faculty, to have some regard for its academic reputation.  In that light, Marquette might be well-advised to consider how precipitously it is falling into some bad habits of mind.  'Jesuit tradition' has never been a matter of telling students, in effect, 'Shut up because I say so.'  'Catholic social teaching' has never been grounds for punishing whistleblowers.  Something is seriously amiss at Marquette.

"Professor McAdams chose to 'be the difference.'  Look where it got him.  I hope that the higher authorities at Marquette choose to 'be the difference' too, between the continuation of this folly and some wiser direction for the university."

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