Data Wonk

McAdams Decision Is a Travesty

Cyber-bullying was championed by state Supreme Court, while trashing faculty governance.

By - Jul 11th, 2018 11:49 am
John McAdams

John McAdams

John McAdams has been a professor of political science at Marquette University since 1977; he received tenure in 1989. In 2002, McAdams started his Marquette Warrior Blog and became a very active poster in 2005. A repeated theme of this blog is that Marquette is infested with left-wing political correctness.

McAdams’ blog is fairly typical of a common type found on the right: the chief goal is grievance collection of attempts by the left to shut down discussion of certain issues. A good day is when someone on the left—or even the mainstream–says something stupid.

At the top of his blog is a paragraph that includes these sentences. “This site has no official connection with Marquette University. Indeed, when University officials find out about it, they will doubtless want it shut down.” To McAdams’ evident disappointment, for the next ten years, it appears that Marquette ignored the Marquette Warrior Blog.

On November 9, 2015, this changed. Under the headline “Marquette Philosophy Instructor: ‘Gay Rights’ Can’t Be Discussed in Class Since Any Disagreement Would Offend Gay Students,” a post started off:

A student we know was in a philosophy class (“Theory of Ethics”), and the instructor (one Cheryl Abbate) was attempting to apply a philosophical text to modern political controversies. So far so good.

It went on for over 1000 words to describe an incident that, briefly, went as follows: Abbate, a graduate student who taught two philosophy courses, was introducing a unit on the philosopher John Rawls’ equal liberty principle. She listed several current controversies to which this principle might be applied. One student argued that the issue of gay marriage should be added to the list, which Abbate rejected.

At the end of class, as Abbate cleared the classroom for the next class, the student (identified only as “JD”) approached her to continue his argument. Unknown to Abbate, he had set his cell phone to record the conversation. In this conversation, she made a number of comments that lent themselves to McAdams’ charge of political correctness (for instance, that the discussion could be upsetting to gay students).

According to McAdams’ account of the recording, at some point the conversation went off-topic, from whether the gay marriage controversy would usefully illustrate Rawls’ philosophy to the desirability of gay marriage itself. From his viewpoint, McAdams had hit pay dirt.

In my judgment, Abbate was wise to reject JD’s suggestion but did a poor job of explaining why. Using gay marriage would have turned the unit—ostensibly about John Rawls—into an argument about gay marriage. According to the faculty report, three weeks later, JD could not remember which philosopher’s theories were under discussion, guessing that it was perhaps Kant or Nietzsche.

In both the first post and subsequent ones, McAdams linked to Abbate’s email, making it easy for people to harass her. This post resulted in a number of messages threatening the graduate student, resulting in her leaving Marquette for another university. McAdams then published the name of the university to which Abbate had transferred, enabling the  harassment to continue.

The Marquette administration informed McAdams that the university intended to revoke his tenure and terminate his employment. This decision then went to a Faculty Review Committee (FRC), which produced a 164-page report. The FRC’s report was critical of the administration:

… the suspension of Dr. McAdams pending the outcome of this proceeding, imposed by the University with no faculty review and in the absence of any viable threat posed by the continuation of his job duties, was an abuse of the University’s discretion granted under the Faculty Statutes. … The Committee therefore recommends that Dr. McAdams be suspended, without pay but with benefits, for a period of no less than one but no more than two semesters.

However, it was far more critical of McAdams:

… Dr. McAdams’s conduct with respect to his November 9, 2014 blog post violated his obligation to fellow members of the Marquette community by recklessly causing harm to Ms. Abbate, even though that harm was caused indirectly. The Committee concludes that the harm to Ms. Abbate was substantial, foreseeable, easily avoidable, and not justifiable. …

Second, the Committee concludes that the University has demonstrated that Dr. Mc-Adams’s conduct was seriously irresponsible, and that his demonstrated failure to recognize his essential obligations to fellow members of the Marquette community, and to conform his behavior accordingly, will substantially impair his fitness to fulfill his responsibilities as a professor.

The suspension recommendation was accepted by Marquette president Michael Lovell. However, he added a requirement that McAdams apologize to Abbate before the suspension would be lifted.

McAdams refused to apologize, causing his suspension to continue indefinitely. Instead he turned to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Judge David Hansher ruled for Marquette.

Judge Hansher’s decision was appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which ruled 4-2 for McAdams. Justice Daniel Kelly wrote the majority decision. Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote a concurring opinion, as did Justice Kelly himself, joined by Rebecca Bradley. Justices Michael Gableman and Patience Roggensack were the other two votes in the majority. (Justice Annette Ziegler did not participate on the case.)

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, joined by Shirley Abrahamson, dissented. A reader familiar with the justices will note that the personalities seem skewed—with conservatives seeming to uphold academic freedom and the two liberals voting against it.

This irony is more apparent than real. That is because this is not an academic freedom case. No one is challenging McAdams’ right to post whatever thoughts he has on issues of public concern. Instead his willingness to publicly attack a student, while supplying contact and other information that allows his readers to harass and threaten Abbate was the basis of the sanctions imposed by Marquette.

This decision raises a number of disturbing issues:

  1. The court majority endorses cyber bullying. McAdams argues that he has no control over what people do with the information he provides. That is a theme that Kelly takes up in his decision. But it is very clear that McAdams is fully aware that cyber bullying is one likely result and facilitates it by, for instance, linking to Abbate’s accounts, listing her new university, and threatening other Marquette officials with a negative review in his blog.
  2. While cyber bullying is a growing threat to reasoned discourse, in my experience, it is particularly reprehensible when practiced by college faculty against students. It violates one of the fundamental, if unspoken, contracts between college faculty and students.
  3. The majority’s decision is a masterpiece of intellectual dishonesty. Its very first sentence attempts to reposition the case as an attempt to censor a faculty member, “Marquette University suspended a tenured faculty member because of a blog post criticizing an encounter between an instructor and a student.” This theme, which Kelly repeats again and again, is aimed at disguising the true reason that McAdams’ got in trouble: his deliberate plot to generate attacks on Abbate.
  4. Surprisingly for justices who present themselves as conservative, the court is no respecter of existing institutions. In its amici brief to the court, the Marquette Faculty Senate asked the court to preserve its appeal process:

Prior review by a committee of the faculty is a critical procedural protection for academic freedom at Marquette and elsewhere, and is an important component of the shared governance structure that faculty members and the university have contractually arranged. Whatever opinion this Court reaches on the issue of whether summary judgment was properly granted in this case, it should preserve the contractually bargained-for role of the faculty in reviewing dismissals for cause.

The faculty’s argument was unsuccessful. Combining ignorance with arrogance, the court rejected Marquette’s existing system for resolving disputes between faculty and the institution, on the excuse that it left ambiguities concerning the relationship between the faculty and the president. While disparaging the existing system, the court substituted its own far more legalistic process.

  1. The result is that the models for shared governance at all Wisconsin colleges and universities are likely in a state of limbo. As Justice Ann Walsh Bradley points out, the court has diminished the ability of these private educational institutions to make their own academic decisions in fulfillment of its unique mission. In the future, not only will Marquette become less autonomous but so will other Wisconsin private colleges and universities.
  2. Finally, the decision confirms a disturbing trend apparent in earlier cases, such as that shutting down the John Doe investigation of coordination between Walker’s campaign and various ostensibly independent organizations. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has become an instrument of a clique of right-wing ideologues. If a liberal Marquette professor had set up a conservative student for public abuse it is hard to imagine these justices would have been as outraged or ruled in the same way.
Categories: Data Wonk, Politics

31 thoughts on “Data Wonk: McAdams Decision Is a Travesty”

  1. Noel Macaulay says:

    First, a disclosure. I am not from Wisconsin or Marquette. I have glanced at the Marquette Warrior blog after the dispute made the news, but other than reading the article in question, and a couple of others, have made no attempt to peruse the blog further. I have, of course, read many articles about this dispute (both pro and con). More importantly (for me as a lawyer) I have read most of the pleadings and opinions (including very lengthy series of majority, concurring and dissenting opinions by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

    I have also followed this case closely and from its inception, because of my libertarian and free-speech leanings. I also confess profound distaste – indeed, repulsion – for the oppression increasingly employed by the “progressives” – particularly in academia – to those with whom they disagree. It is in that context – a fervent belief in free-speech and free-thought and affirmation that the exercise of tyranny ought to be fought with unyielding vigor – that I see the case. All that aside, let me say this.

    From everything I have read , this article totally misrepresents many of the facts of the underlying controversy. Cheryl Abate’s name was not set forth in increased size or underlined – the author did that. McAdams did not link to Ms. Abate’s email link – it linked to Ms. Abate’s blog, in which she revealed her email address. A blog, of course, is intended to be read. One could go on and on – but the bottom line is that virtually everything said in this article is factually incorrect and/or so slanted as to be risible.

    On par with this, the author displays either the inability or unwillingness to understand, or even acknowledge the existence of the free speech and free thought issues raised. The detailed and lengthy analysis and exposition of the Wisconsin Supreme Court are dismissed without ever referencing its analysis or the facts set forth in the opinion. It appear to be nothing other than regurgitated spleen by an apologist of academic tyranny. How transparently pathetic!

  2. PMD says:

    I love it when someone takes pains to present themself as informed and fair right before they are biased and obtuse.

  3. PMD says:

    Not to mention conservatives have made it a mission to weaken tenure protections and make it easier to fire professors. But only ones they perceive as liberal. Bunch of hypocrites. McAdams is a repulsive human being who bullies and doxxes students.

  4. 2fs says:

    Noel Macaulay: The boldface type for Abbate’s name is a standard feature of this and many other columns on this site, linking to any other articles featuring the named person. Anyone who reads more than one piece at this site—or, perhaps, anyone not seeking to grind an axe—would recognize this.

    Your argument misses the crux of the issue: that a tenured faculty member repeatedly and intentionally published abusive remarks about a graduate student, whom he identified by name and even, egregiously, linking to her blog. Abbate has every right to publish a blog and say what she says; the mere fact that she has an online presence does not excuse McAdams’ facilitating his readers’ abuse of her.

    As an educator who’s worked at area colleges including Marquette, I am well aware that it is an abuse of power to denigrate students, especially publicly, and especially by name.

    It is this violation of Marquette’s policies for which McAdams was censured. Not his exercise of speech—which (as Thompson points out) he exercised without incident for a decade (and which he has continued to exercise).

    As for “progressive oppression”: Thompson is correct in his implication that an instructor does have the right to exercise control over the focus of her class. While Abbate, in the ad hoc conversation with this student, may not have presented the best reasoning for this claim (and it is most likely a violation of university policy for the student to have recorded this private conversation without Abbate’s awareness or consent), the principle is clear: as an instructor she has the right to keep classroom discussion focused on the issue at hand. She also the right, indeed the obligation, to consider the extent to which prejudicial comments might make students uncomfortable. This is hardly “oppression”—the student could, for example, choose to write about his chosen subject (assuming it fit within assignment parameters).

    It’s amusing how “libertarians” invariably toady up to power—what of Abbate’s “liberty” to teach her class as she sees fit?

  5. geoffreyskoll says:

    The majority of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices are a travesty. They tend toward White supremacy, corporatism (see Mussolini), and celebration of ignorance, especially when it comes to constitutional and legal issues. As for this case, I believe it was a model of prejudging. As soon as the right wing law and political action organization brought it, the so-called conservative (but actual corporatist) justices had decided the case in favor of McAdams.
    Bruce Thompson’s article correctly states the issues and implications. I would add one. McAdams libeled the graduate student. Her recourse could have been to sue him and possibly Marquette University. That is, she could have if she had had the backing of a legal and political action organization of the like that McAdams had. She did not. As a private educational organization, Marquette is not bound by laws about free speech. On the other hand, Marquette has undertaken a role toward students to protect them from the kind of harm inflicted by McAdams. Marquette fulfilled its obligation by disciplining McAdams. The case had no business in a court of law.

  6. Rita says:

    I am all for free speech, but I have little patience for spending time on poor arguments often based on nothing but beliefs in a classroom I am paying good money to be in. The ability to overcome that pitfall and make something valuable out of those instances is the difference between being a poor teacher or a great teacher. To make a supreme court case out of it is to be a jackass.

  7. Noel Macaulay says:

    In response to 2fs and others, it is important not to conflate multiple issues. Many of the comments relate to the interaction between Ms. Abate (as “instructor”, not “graduate student”) and the undergraduate student. Whatever you think of that discussion, and Ms. Abate’s response, or whether that is right or wrong, or how it should have been handled internally, the real issue is the actions of Marquette vis-a-vis Professor McAdams. It is those which were at issue before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and it is those which Marquette was required to defend, and proved unable to do so.

    By the way, in response to 2fs’ comments, I obviously must be missing something. 2fs says that McAdams most egregious act was linking to Abate’s blog in his article ( whom he identified by name and even, egregiously, linking to her blog”.). How could that possibly be an improper act? A blog is not private information, it is, by definition, something which is published, or at least, posted with the intent that it be viewed by the public, or a large subgroup of the public.

    Some of the other comments are simply one or two sentence attacks, and do not merit a further response.

    Finally, and as to a comment by geoffreyskoll, I am not aware of how Ms. Abate was libeled (or if libeled, how truth would not be a defense or it be non-actionable statement of opinion). I will simply observe that if there had been a apparent case for libel, in this heated environment, I am confident that one would have been brought.

  8. geoffreyskoll says:

    To Noel Macauly: McAdams libeled Abate when he wrote that she suppressed speech in her class. She did not as McAdams knew or should have known. McAdams published a false and defamatory statement. It was defamatory because it adversely affected her academic career. Your confidence has zero basis, as defenders of obscure grad students do not garner the kind of support that right wing bloviators do, and bringing libel suits takes a pile of money.

  9. PMD says:

    It is a fact that conservatives have been trying to weaken tenure protections and make it easier to fire professors. Every single story about this has said as much.

  10. geoffreyskoll says:

    To Rita: Thankfully there are reasonable students like you. I applaud your contribution.

  11. 2fs says:

    Noel Macaulay:

    The substance of McAdams’ comments was “the interaction between Ms. Abbate…and the undergraduate.” Therefore, understanding that interaction is crucial to evaluating McAdams’ commentary about same. To make an obvious point: if McAdams claimed that Abbate threw a brick at the student (and she did not), you can’t very well ignore that and say “but this is only about the actions of Marquette vis-a-vis McAdams”…because Marquette’s actions were *in response to* the way McAdams described and discussed the interaction between Abbate and her student.

    (By the way: Abbate is one person—just because she is both instructor and graduate student does not mean that McAdams is free to ignore her student status while discussing, publicly, her work as an instructor.)

    Re “egregious”: I did not say “most egregious,” only “egregious.” Let us travel back to, say, 1995. Let us assume your name, address, and phone number were published in the phone book. That’s public information. Does that mean, therefore, that if I were to send out a letter to all your co-workers libelling you (“Noel Macauley kicks puppies”) and including your address and phone number (“and he lives here…and this is his phone number”), you’d argue there was nothing wrong with including that other information, because it was public?

    I would rather think, instead, you would assume the libeler was, in fact, including your contact information in order to tacitly encourage his readers (and let us here add that your hypothetical libeler is politically motivated—which, of course, McAdams is, regardless of whether we judge his words to be libelous) to make use of that information.

    That’s pretty obvious from a common-sense perspective. What need had McAdams to include Abbate’s contact information—or, for that matter, her name—except to attack her *personally* and encourage his readers to harass her? If his point were only that instructors were “oppressing” right-wing political thought, that point is readily made without naming the instructor at all: “JD, an undergrad at Marquette, found his efforts to decry gay marriage shut down by his philosophy instructor…”

    As Geoffrey Skoll writes: to accuse a teacher of suppressing speech is libelous, since teachers’ jobs including encouraging students to learn how to express themselves, at least within the bounds of the course’s subject matter and focus, And as I note above, naming her and providing contact information is transparently an effort to expose her to harassment.

    Graduate students cannot afford lawyers. Do you have any idea how little they’re paid?

  12. 2fs says:

    I’ll note also that McAdams is punctilious about not naming his student contact—even though we know now that “we” knew him because he was a member of a Koch Brothers -sponsored right-wing student organization, and thus hardly neutral in this case…one might even, perhaps, suspect a set-up, given the student’s surreptitiously recording the interaction.

    Why his reticence there? He names Abbate, publishes her contact info…but uses a phony set of initials for his sympathetic complainant.

    Objectively, this begins to look rather like a hit job. “Young Americans for Freedom” (the organization of which “JD” was Marquette’s only member) is, of course, a Koch Brothers -funded outfit…as are a network of other right-wing activist organizations, including Turning Point USA, which directly encourages (through its “Professor Watchlist”) its student activist members to report on their “left-wing” instructors.

    Or do you think JD just happened to confide in McAdams…who just happened to be a well-connected right-winger with a blog he push-notifies to right-wing talk radio, etc.?

  13. Thomas says:

    Mc Adams behaved reprehensibly. Abbate suffered from this behavior. The WI Supreme Court sanctioned the reprehensible behavior of a bully. The United States Supreme Court could some day soon become nearly as ignorant and insensitive as the WI Supreme Court. Are all the power grabbing reactionaries in this country devoid of shame?

  14. Tom says:

    The behavior of Prof. Mc Adams towards this graduate student TA was shameful. I would call his behavior that of a filthy pig, but that would unfairly denigrate pigs. Mc Adams’ behavior in this incident, and towards students for his entire career has been shameful. Were he a liberal professor, he would have been fired long ago.

    Even more shameful is the travesty of justice by the laughingstock court in America, the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Wisconsin has 2 systems of justice now, one for right wing Republicans and one for everyone else. As volunteer speakers from our group travel Wisconsin and Minnesota this year, we will incorporate this decision by the corrupt Wisconsin Supreme Court into our presentation as just one more reason why young teachers should leave Walker’s Wisconsin as soon as possible after graduation. No sense trying to build a career in a state where even the legal system is stacked against the common person.

  15. Berkeleian says:

    It is hard not to suspect a set-up, given that the “student” at the time of the encounter was failing the course, not having done any of the work.

  16. steve says:

    As a lifelong teacher, I can say that It has never been less safe to take the daily risks in each interaction (that a caring
    person must take), or to express a personal opinion when asked ( or not) , or to include your role as a member of a Union,r political party (even if those things are a matter of public record). I know so many who have been successfully
    intimidated since Act 10, and who have left, or diminished their personal involvement in their profession. I, for instance
    avoided shopping or leisure, in the commercial districts closest to my work, and avoided Facebook and all other social
    media as well. The idea of being set up by anybody (regardless of their political agenda), while trying to honestly and with
    good faith, conduct my classes (especially as an inexperienced lecturer), especially someone who has no direct authority
    or administrative chain of command to act as a “rationale” or “excuse”, is brutal and shameful. I wish the best for the abused grad student, and hope that Universities and School Districts will take note of the need to protect teachers as well as students from malicious acts in the guise of scholarship. I hope that JD will find something more humane to do with his
    life than be a fake student and toady to mean spirited people who pretend they believe in freedom (while using
    gay marriage and gay rights to drive a wedge between compassionate people.)

  17. Bill Sell says:

    Bruce, I read the article and the illuminating comments. Just want to say, thank you for clarifying a most unfortunate court decision that, yes, protected a bully. I remember John McAdams voice from Wisconsin Public Radio. He was periodically brought on the air as the “voice from the right” – unrelenting, interrupting, unapologetic. And now this, the best court someone else’s money can buy.

    I applaud Marquette’s Faculty Review Committee who saw two issues as distinct and made conservative decisions accordingly.

  18. LenaTaylorNeedsToResign says:

    Congratulations to Professor McAdams and WILL, for your persistence and courage in seeing this to the end. Fighting for what you know is right is never easy.

  19. Noel Macaulay says:

    Many of the responses are simply personal attacks on Professor McAdams or the Wisconsin Supreme Court (e.g. “Filthy pig….”, “power grubbing reactionaries”, etc.), and have little intelligent content to respond to. However, in response to some of geoffreyskoll and 2fs’ comments:

    1. Has anyone who investigated this matter ever asserted that what McAdams said about the interaction between the student and Abate, (not a header, but the facts set forth in his blog post), was false? Was not the entire conversation recorded? Don’t you think that if Marquette University – or the Faculty Senate – could have made the point that the statements were objectively false, they would have? That it would not have been briefed in the underlying case, rolled out as part of the publicity battles, etc.? As you are aware, truth is an absolute defense to a defamation action. So, yes, I can reasonably conclude/infer from this that there was no viable defamation claim – and that had one been brought, a malicious prosecution action against the person/attorney bringing that lawsuit could have been brought.
    2. Why do you think that the personal wealth of McAdams or Abate mattered one iota in whether to bring a defamation claim? This is a highly publicized matter, which purportedly forced Ms. Abate to leave Marquette, and allegedly caused her lasting damages. If there was a case and damages there, a simple contingency fee agreement with a regular lawyer would have sufficed. Moreover, under these circumstances, who cares if there were any damages? Once this became part of the broader “culture wars”, others leapt to support one side or another. Had there been an actionable defamation claim, I have no doubt that it would have been financed, simply as a tactical or strategic move, by organizations favoring Marquette/Abate – just as other organizations volunteered their legal efforts to prosecute the action on behalf of McAdams.

    3. Again, all the statements made about McAdams actions start with the assumption that he made false statements about Ms. Abate. Don’t you think that if that were true, it would have been successfully asserted by now? It was not. Rather he made true statements about Ms. Abate – supported by a recording of the conversation. This was followed by McAdams non-actionable opinions about this. So, your analogy to someone asserting “Noel Macaulay kicks puppies” is a false one. The better example is if you were to post that statement about me with a video of me kicking the puppies, or a recording of me admitting it and describing the actions in lascivious details. In each instance, it may be “libelous” – but because – in those instances in which evidence was provided – it would be true, there would be no action that I or Ms. Abate could bring. Moreover, if it were true, I would deserve the opprobrium which my actions would then receive.

    4. By the way, the example of linking to a blog, and the separate provision of information which is either private, or public but difficult to find – is a poor one. Remember, a blog is is designed by the author to be read by the public. It is an essay or series of essays by Ms. Abate and directed to the world at large. It is no more improper to link to that blog then it would be for someone to link to McAdams’ blog. Also, a blog is not something which is hidden. Presumably a search under Abate’s name on the internet would have found it with a few key strokes. It is Ms. Abate herself who put her email address in her blog.

    5. As far as the “Young American for Freedom” being a “Koch Brothers -sponsored right-wing student organization”, and “JD” being the only member of that organization on campus, those statements strike me as irrelevant. I used to be the chairman of the YAF chapter at LMU and USC (mind you, this was in the late 70’s/early 80’s). While I have had nothing to do with YAF since 1985, I find the assertion that YAF was some sort of weird “far-right” student group laughable. YAF was founded in 1960 by William F. Buckley and others, and was very well known in its time. When I was running those YAF chapters, I had never heard of the Koch brothers. I certainly never received any financial support from outside groups. As far as the number of people that campuses require be listed and identified when starting a chapter or re-registering a group, I don’t know what Marquette requires, but I can certainly see – in today’s campus clime and orthodoxy/repression, not wanting not to have the membership known. In fact, how is it any of Marquette’ business who the members of the YAF chapter at Marquette are. Could someone please explain why JD being the “only listed” member of YAF is supposed to signify anything?

  20. 2fs says:

    1. The issue re McAdams’ version of events is less that they’re lies per se and more that they’re invidious interpretations. His version of events turns suggestions into prohibitions, cautions into warnings, and (again) any teacher’s right to direct discussion as a prohibition of the student’s free speech. (Speaking of which: students do not, in fact, have “free speech” in an absolute sense in a classroom. They cannot just talk whenever they feel like it (as in: interrupting students or the instructor). They cannot write about whatever they want, etc. And the teacher’s (and university’s) enforcement of any such restrictions is entirely within the bounds of academic practice (as McAdams surely knows, as a teacher himself). In sum: Abbate did not, in fact, outright prohibit anything beyond what was indicated by the focus and subject matter of her class, and entirely normal responsibility to preserve collegiality and prevent abusive speech in the classroom.

    2. If you think relative wealth, and access to a large political organization, is irrelevant in terms of lawsuits, you are being willfully naive. Even in terms and time and effort, filing a suit would have grossly interfered in Abbate’s pursuit of her degree.

    3. The argument is not (primarily) that McAdams made false statements about the encounter. It is that, in his description of the event, he libeled Abbate by portraying her as an incompetent, spiteful, unprofessional instructor (and, by implication, impugned her grad-student work as well, implhying it too was effectively a political gambit supported for political reasons rather than academic reasons). Abbate did not tell the student he could never, ever have a negative opinion about gay marriage, nor that he could never, ever write about it. She suggested, instead, that such a statement might be disruptive, disrespectful, and irrelevant in the classroom.

    4. Presumably, if you had kicked puppies, or been described in such a way as tio imply your enthusiastic approval of puppy-kicking, a link to your your personal telephone number (if a landline: I’m referring to my “1995” example), would merely be the publication of publicly available information, which anyone could find by opening up their phone book. So, again, you could hardly object to someone doing so…yet, again, I strongly suspect in such a case, you would.

    5. The point about “JD”’s status is speculative, of course. We do not know for sure that this whole thing was a political set-up. We do know, however, that other, related and connected right-wing groups have used such tactics, that other, connected right-wing groups have programs in place explicitly designed to discredit “left-wing” instructors, etc. In pointing out those facts, I am merely observing that they point away from the notion that this is merely one aggrieved student irked at an instructor he felt was shutting him down.

    Also: thanks for noting your prior YAF membership. It would have seemed germane to mention it earlier, of course, in giving perspective to where your argument might be coming from…but that, too, might be speculative.

  21. PMD says:

    I’ve seen people criticize the way Abbate explained herself to the student while still pointing out that nothing she did even remotely justified McAdams actions. Both can be true.

  22. geoffreyskoll says:

    Noel is a butinski, who seems to have plenty of time (=money) to comment on on what he admittedly has no material interest in. Finally (!!!) he admits to being a YAFer in his ‘youth.’ Could he be a member of the Right Wing disrupters of public discourse? who is well supported by Right Wing largess in its various mutations??? By the way (really, just a side comment), the US (not Wisconsin) Supreme Court weighed in on academic freedom in the first decades of the twentieth century. They held on several occasions that 1. There is such a thing as academic freedom, 2. The law should respect it, and 3. academic freedom inhered in the university (read as =faculty collective, not individual faculty members). The character of McAdams is very much in question. He violated Marquette’s faculty rules in a number of ways over many years so the Abbaate affair is not his first and only offense. That Marquette tolerated his disruptive, anti-student, anti-moral behavior so long should prompt Marquette to review their tolerance policies for faculty.

  23. Noel Macaulay says:

    To 2fs:

    To your comments, I would respond:

    1. What you call an “invidious interpretation”, others would call “opinion”. If I understand your statement, you may now be conceding that while nothing McAdams said was demonstrably false, the “slant” or “interpretation” he gave objectively truthful statements of fact was “unfair”. The same comment could be made, with equal validity (or lack thereof) by anyone about a great deal of opinion pieces written about innumerable subjects. It certainly does not support anything Marquette did.

    2. I concede the points you make about lack of absolute free speech in the classroom, and vis-a-vis students (of course, this did not involve a conversation which took place in the classroom, but afterwards). No one is asserting there is an absolute right to free speech on the part of students in the classroom, although a valid point could be made that the very spirit of a university is such that the free exchange of ideas ought not to be arbitrarily and ideologically abridged – which I believe was McAdams’ point. More importantly, however, it is McAdams’ free speech – not JD’s – which was at issue here, and it was the actions of Marquette against McAdams – not against JD – which were before the Court. That is an important point.

    3. As for your second point, I respectfully submit that you have failed to acknowledge, let alone address, my comments re contingency fee representation, and, in this context and once the matter had become well publicized and the subject of numerous outside groups – the willingness – if not eagerness – of outside groups to fund whatever it might take to “win” on the issue. There is nothing “naive” about pointing out the obvious. As for the statement that “Even in terms and time and effort, filing a suit would have grossly interfered in Abbate’s pursuit of her degree”, I don’t know where that comes from. She would – over the length of the suit – arguably have to respond to interrogatories, and at some point sit for a deposition. I am not sure how that would “grossly interfere” with her pursuit of a degree.

    4. Your characterization of McAdams’ statements (“incompetent”) is not necessarily supported by the record, and the characterization of Abate’s statements are “unprofessional”, etc. are supported by the record. Again, what Abate said was recorded and is a matter of public record. How is it that you believe the statements Abate made to JD and others were either respectful, polite or professional? There are plenty of ways to deflect or even shut down someone from a position of relative authority without going on a harangue to a student re the stupidity of their position, the unacceptable nature of their thoughts and a statement that they should get out of the class if they disagree. Frankly, that was unprofessional and, candidly, incompetent.

    5. You are certainly entitled to your suspicions – whether or not they have any evidence to support them – about whether or not this was a “political set-up” by “related and connected right-wing groups” (whatever that means). Perhaps you are right, and perhaps you are wrong. I suspect you are wrong, simply because from everything I have read, JD’s approach was fairly amateurish – if a professional had been behind it, the set-up would have been a lot better, and the recording would have been taken in the classroom itself. However, assume you are right. So what? If there is invidious discrimination being practiced by instructors and teachers against students based upon their ideology, lack of “enlightened” positions, or anything else. I see nothing wrong with bringing that to people’s attention, and having evidence to support it. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

    6. I am not certain how my YAF membership in 1979-81, and 82-85 is germane to this entire issue, or why it is that I should have mentioned it sooner. I only mentioned it when you first mentioned YAF in what seemed to be a relatively gratuitous manner, and to correct what I thought were unwarranted comments about the organization (at least, based upon my knowledge of it some 33 years ago).


  24. Noel Macaulay says:

    To geoffreyskoll: I am not certain what “a butinski” is, but I suspect that you are not complimenting me. I am not, to my knowledge “a member of the Right Wing disrupters of public discourse who is well supported by Right Wing largess in its various mutations”. I do suspect, however, that you have now exhausted your ability (or inclination) to engage in intelligent discourse, or to provide any kind of reasoned response to opinions with which you disagree.

    Are you, may I ask, a member of the faulty at Marquette?

  25. geoffreyskoll says:

    To Noel:
    Nope, not Marquette faculty, although many years ago I taught there for a few semesters as a fill-in. I am a resident of Wisconsin, and have an interest in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I live in the Milwaukee area and am interested in academia in the area. My details are eminently searchable on the internet, and I have a web page on
    Who are you?

  26. Noel Macaulay says:

    I live in the Los Angeles area, and am not a member of academia. My interest in this controversy is purely “academic”.

  27. Crazy Chester says:

    “Academic”? Obsessive, more like. As bad as the decision was, it’s over. Marquette acquiesced, and we’re just left with its chilling effect. God save academia.

  28. 2fs says:

    I’m on vacation now and don’t have time to dig back into the original sources.

    Short version is, no, I’m not conceding McAdams was telling the “truth” nor that anything Abbate (with 2 B’s, y’all) did was “abusive” to the student or inappropriate in any way. It may not have been ideally phrased – which is what happens when you are speaking, in real time, on a subject you have not prepared written notes for, and some assh*le is illicitly recording your words, and then a group of other such sits there and nitpicks your every word, which was not prepared as a definitive piece of edited prose.

  29. David says:

    Having followed this case since the beginning, I can honestly say that the ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court is a just one. McAdams’ contract clearly states that he can’t be subject to discipline for speech/expression that is constitutionally protected. Although his blog post resulted in Ms. Abbate receiving threatening emails, those emails were never encouraged or incited by McAdams. He provided no information that wasn’t already publicly available. No court of law would ever rule that what McAdams did would be considered harassment. And after reading the report by the faulty themselves it’s clear that this entire could have been avoided altogether if the incident between the student “JD” and Ms. Abbate was handled differently. The whole idea of a “political set-up” seems a little far fetch if you read how the situation played out. “JD” turned the recoding over to McAdams (who was his student adviser at the time) only after filing a report against Ms. Abbate only to be rebuffed and discouraged at ever turn. Clearly there is more to this than what people have read in the new. I suggest people read the Faculty Hearing Committee report about what happened. Anyone who approaches the report objectively can clearly see what mistakes were made and how this could have been avoided.

  30. PMD says:

    He was not disciplined for speech! He blogged for years and years without any problems. You can’t claim you are being objective when you don’t even grasp basic facts here.

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