Conservative, Tenured Marquette Professor Terminated

McAdams was a tenured Marquette professor. The operative phrase is was.

McAdams was a tenured Marquette professor. The operative word is “was.”

University officials at Marquette University have begun the process of revoking the tenure of and terminating Associate Professor of Political Science John C. McAdams. McAdams, an outspoken conservative, frequently expresses critical and sometimes controversial opinions on his Marquette Warrior blog. One such post got him into trouble with the Marquette administration.

In November, McAdams blogged about a conservative student who faced an unfair philosophy instructor in his Theory of Ethics class on John Rawls. The instructor wanted to apply the philosophy taught in the class to contemporary political issues, and the topic of gay marriage came up. To this, the instructor assumed that everyone in the class supported gay marriage and said so. After the class, a conservative student politely approached the instructor and engaged her on this controversial social issue while recording the interaction.

The instructor compared opposing gay marriage to “racist opinions, sexist opinions” and considered opposing gay marriage “offensive” and “homophobic.” She said that the student could not oppose gay marriage in the class, and that the student should drop the class if he should not find this acceptable.

After McAdams posted about this incident, he was suspended with pay, and his spring semester courses were canceled. The administration is now moving to terminate him. According to Marquette Dean Richard C. Holtz, McAdams acted improperly in blogging about the incident and criticizing the instructor harshly, rather than approaching the philosophy department or administration; McAdams also named the course instructor in the post, which led to the instructor receiving hate mail. There are also alleged inaccuracies in the blog post.

Regardless, tenure is designed to protect faculty members from all but the most egregious violations, allowing faculty to take controversial stances in pursuit of the truth. Even if there were improper criticisms and inaccuracies in the post, such an offense does not warrant revoking tenure and terminating the professor. By all indications, McAdams is a respected scholar and teacher and a much-needed conservative voice in liberal academia. It is difficult to believe that a liberal professor would have been similarly punished, and it seems that the administration’s action is harsh attack on academic freedom and the freedom of speech. Unfortunately, McAdams’ tenure protections were effectively ignored, and he is losing his job without any due process.

McAdams will not go easily, and he is promising to fight the termination in court.