On November 9 of last year, we published a post detailing how a student in a Philosophy class confronted the instructor after class. He was disappointed that she quickly passed over the issue of gay marriage in class, since the student wanted to argue against the policy. The instructor told the student that he was not allowed to make “homophobic” comments in class, and further that if he was allowed to argue against gay marriage, that would “offend” any gay students in class.
The post created a firestorm of controversy. First, people appalled that an instructor’s actions weighed in, and then leftist academics who felt we had been unfair to the instructor (one Cheryl Abbate) mobilized to attack us.
Marquette’s administration (most prominently Arts & Sciences Dean Richard Holz) sided with our attackers, and suspended us in December. So it was no particular surprise when, last Friday, our lawyer received a letter from Holz – addressed to us – saying:
Therefore, in accord with Section 307.03, we are commencing as of this date the procedures for revoking your tenure and dismissing you from the faculty.Holz’ irate letter, which can be found here, is full of poor arguments and factual misstatements.
How about that: a tenured professor in the twilight of his career, fired for publicly criticizing a graduate student on a blog. More:
The assumption here seems to be that we should have kept the whole thing quiet, and sought redress for the student from the Marquette administration.
In the first place, the student had tried that, and got no redress (other than being allowed to drop the class).
Secondly, blogging is journalism, and it’s simply not standard journalistic practice to quietly try to right a wrong by appealing to officials to fix the situation. If an issue is of public interest, it is reported.
Holz attacks us for not asking for comment from Nancy Snow, or from the Dean’s office. But both would have doubtless invoked “confidentiality.” When The College Fix asked Snow for comment, she failed to respond.
We did write Abbate, asking for her account of the after-class confrontation. She failed to respond. (Holz includes our e-mail in his letter.) But given that the student had made recording of the exchange, there was never any doubt as to what occurred.
In the first paragraph, Holz asserted:
As detailed below and in my letter of January 2, 2015, your conduct clearly and substantially fails to meet the standards of personal and professional excellence that generally characterizes University faculties. As a result, your value to this academic institution is substantially impaired.If academic freedom is dependent on administrators’ judgments of the “value” of a faculty member, notions of academic freedom are meaningless.
Campus bureaucrats hate controversy, since it makes trouble for them. Thus the most “valuable” faculty members are the ones who avoid controversy, and especially avoid criticizing administrators.
In real universities, administrators understand (or more likely grudgingly accept) that faculty will say controversial things, will criticize them and each other, and that people will complain about it. They understand that putting up with the complaints is part of the job, and assuaging those who complain the loudest is not the best policy.
That sort of university is becoming rarer and rarer. Based on Holz’ actions, Marquette is certainly not such a place.
Read the whole thing. McAdams is going to fight them in court. Good.
The future of the academy is already precarious. The least administrators could do is stop making it so easy for people to wave goodbye.
Verily. McAdams may have lost his job, but Marquette is the real loser here. Who would want to study at a university that has so little respect for academic freedom that it cans a professor over a blog post criticizing what a graduate student teacher said to her class?
By the way, if you’re interested in following the musings of Cheryl Abbate, you may follow her postings on Vegan Feminist Network, which describes itself as “a vegan community valuing intersectionality and anti-oppression outreach.” Careful commenting there, though:
This site explicitly rejects white capitalist patriarchal co-optations of “liberation” efforts, including Nonhuman Animal welfare reform, sex work/sex performace as “empowering” and “liberating,” and “color-blindness.” This site takes a radical position against all forms of oppression, including that which is falsely packaged in the symbolism of liberation.
… We promote nonviolence exclusively (including nonviolent speech both private and public). Although we link to resources due to the valuable nature of the research and theory it contains, we do not endorse or support any abuse, manipulation, defamation, intimidation, or other inappropriate behavior from any persons surrounding these linked resources.
Community of Accountability
This site also seeks to create a community of accountability for perpetrators and victims of interpersonal violence in our social movement. Abusive behavior from other activists is subject to a critical deconstruction and public shaming. Likewise, trolling is not random: It is a force with a political agenda, an agenda that generally entails upholding oppression and misogyny. Depending on the content of the abuse and the comfort level of the administrators, some trolls will be starved, but some trolls will be fed. The ultimate goal, regardless of administrative action, is to challenge oppression, create a culture of accountability, and promote safe spaces for activists.
Yeah, I’d say Abbate and her fellow travelers at Marquette created a “safe space for activists” by driving crotchety John McAdams out of the university. Poor bastard never had a chance.