George Orwell Call Your Office: Marquette Demands Ritual Apology From Embattled Professor

by David French

There’s nothing like a good show trial to build confidence in the academy’s commitment to academic freedom. Marquette University is demanding that embattled professor John McAdams apologize for criticizing a colleague as a condition for keeping his job. And what outrage did McAdams commit? He tried to protect the academic freedom and free speech of conservative students:

On November 2014, McAdams, a tenured associate professor of political science, posted an entry on his Marquette Warrior blog describing a recorded conversation between an undergraduate student and the instructor for his “Theory of Ethics” philosophy course. The instructor, Cheryl Abbate, was recorded telling the student that the expression of certain opinions in class was inappropriate because those opinions may be considered offensive to other listeners. Abbate specifically cited the student’s stated opposition to same-sex marriage as a problem.

Abbate’s actions were criticized by readers of McAdams’ blog entry, and her alleged actions received widespread attention from national media. In response, Richard C. Holz, dean of Marquette’s Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, suspended McAdams.

You read that correctly. Rather than discipline the instructor who silenced a conservative student, the university suspended the whistleblower. Now it’s reportedly extending the suspension through the fall 2016 semester and demanding that he apologize as a condition of returning to work. My former colleagues at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) are right to label the forced apology “an age-old inquisitorial tactic used to violate freedom of conscience through compelled speech.”

McAdams — to his immense credit — is not backing down. Here’s his response:

The addition of a demand that we abase ourself and issue an apology and sign a loyalty oath to vaguely defined “guiding values” and to the University’s “mission” is obviously a ploy by Marquette to give the administration an excuse to fire us. They have calculated, correctly, that we will do no such thing.

I would say that it’s astonishing that a Catholic university punish a professor for defending the right of students to advocate the church’s teaching on marriage, but politically correct nonsense is par for the course even (especially) at many religious colleges. McAdams should be applauded — and supported — for his lonely, courageous stand.

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