On May 4, 2017, a Milwaukee County judge issued a 33-page decision dismissing all claims against Marquette University. In May 2016, associate professor John McAdams filed a lawsuit challenging the decisions of Marquette’s Faculty Hearing Committee and President Michael R. Lovell that Dr. McAdams deserved discipline for his conduct.
Consistent with previous communications and in our continued emphasis on transparency, the university is sharing the judge’s public document.
Prior to the judge’s decision, Marquette University put together a Frequently Asked Questions page to share the facts and to make clear our position as a university. The university’s previous statements are below:
Where do leadership groups across campus stand on the issues?
- President Michael Lovell’s perspective can be found here in his call for decency.
- A university statement regarding Dr. McAdams’ lawsuit can be read here.
- The 123-page Faculty Hearing Committee report was posted after Dr. McAdams filed a lawsuit against the university. President Lovell’s decision letter, which was sent to Dr. McAdams in March, can be found here. A follow-up letter to Dr. McAdams in April can be found here.
- Marquette University’s Chair and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees issued a statement on behalf of the entire Board fully supporting President Lovell and the Faculty Hearing Committee recommendations.
- The Executive Committee of the University Academic Senate also shared a statement supporting the positions of President Lovell and the Faculty Hearing Committee.
- 2015-16 Marquette University Student Government president Zack Wallace shared his perspective on this issue, in a post titled “Marquette value: Students first.”
- The University Staff Senate also posted a statement that supports President Lovell and the Faculty Hearing Committee.
- The Marquette University Alumni Association National Board of Directors added a statement of support.
What happened here?
Dr. McAdams disagreed with the way one of our graduate students led a classroom discussion. Instead of expressing those concerns through established internal channels, he chose to blog about our graduate student — publicly shaming her, questioning her values and including a link to her contact information. He sought opportunities to amplify his public shaming of her on cable news and talk radio. Through those actions, he exposed her to a constant stream of threats and hateful messages. At one point, Marquette had to station a public safety officer outside her classroom. She chose to leave the university. The university reviewed Dr. McAdams’ conduct.
What was the university’s review process?
Following shared governance rules set by the university’s Academic Senate, a Faculty Hearing Committee made up of seven of Dr. McAdams’ peers conducted a hearing over four days last September. The committee consisted of tenured faculty members from several different academic disciplines. The committee issued a 123-page report to the president, concluding with a unanimous recommendation that Dr. McAdams acted irresponsibly, unprofessionally and without justification — and that he should be suspended.
It was Marquette’s preference throughout this process to keep all proceedings between the university and Dr. McAdams confidential because this is a personnel matter. However, Dr. McAdams has frequently used his blog to publish his version of proceedings. We feel this FAQ document is an important step to correct the misinformation he and some groups outside campus have perpetuated. Given that Dr. McAdams has now made this a legal matter, Marquette has released the 123-page report to ensure transparency.
Has Dr. McAdams been fired?
No. He has been suspended without pay but with benefits through the fall semester of the 2016-17 academic year, in accordance with the Faculty Hearing Committee’s unanimous recommendation, and given a clear path that would facilitate his return to campus. Before returning to the faculty, he must provide an assurance that he will not continue behaviors that harm others within the Marquette community.
Is this issue about freedom of speech or academic freedom?
No, this issue is about the professor’s conduct toward a graduate student. Dr. McAdams has been blogging for more than a decade, publishing approximately 3,000 posts, and the university administration has never disciplined him. He has the right to talk about controversial topics on his blog, and to disagree with and debate Marquette-related positions freely. Where Dr. McAdams crossed the line is when he launched a personal attack against a student, subjecting her to threats and hateful messages. Dr. McAdams continues to use the student’s name on his blog, even recently identifying where she is currently studying, leading to more hostile and threatening messages.
Was this issue about Dr. McAdams’ political views?
No, this issue had nothing to do with politics. Our review and decisions are based on Dr. McAdams’ actions toward our graduate student, and not political or ideological views expressed in his blog.
Was Dr. McAdams asked to apologize?
President Lovell explained in his call for decency that Dr. McAdams was asked to take responsibility for his actions and to show remorse for the consequences of his irresponsible conduct. Dr. McAdams was never asked to make a public apology, and never was asked to apologize for any opinion or political view he may hold.
Is this an issue related to Marquette’s Catholic identity?
We have taken the position we have because of our Catholic identity and our values. This issue is about conduct and standing up for a student who was publicly shamed by a professor. U.S. Catholic magazine shared this perspective. Across campus, you can find Marquette’s Catholic identity flourishing.
Does Marquette foresee any changes related to other tenured professors?
No, Marquette has a longstanding tradition of awarding and supporting tenure to faculty who have earned tenure status. As President Lovell has shared previously, “Tenure is earned, but is also a responsibility with obligations. The power that tenure affords must never intimidate and silence or cause potential harm to those who are less powerful.”
Did Dr. McAdams criticize a fellow instructor, or a student?
The target of Dr. McAdams’ blog was a graduate student instructor. She remains a student first. The university has established channels in place for faculty members to express concerns. These standard channels of authority, which all university faculty members are expected to follow as a condition of employment as defined by the Faculty Handbook, include an associate dean, dean of the college or the provost.
Did the university review the graduate student teaching assistant’s handling of the classroom discussion?
The university immediately began a review of the overall incident, which included Dr. McAdams and the graduate student. The graduate student left the university soon after the process began, after she was subject to a stream of threats and hateful messages.
Is the Faculty Hearing Committee Report available to read?
Given that Dr. McAdams has made this a legal matter, Marquette has released the Faculty Hearing Committee report, along with other documents, to ensure transparency.
What has factored into the length of this process?
This is a unique situation and it was important that university leaders followed shared governance policies and procedures throughout the process. This process included a review of the incident and four days of testimony from both sides. The Faculty Hearing Committee was diligent in drafting and issuing a 123-page report and unanimous recommendation for action, and time for the president to make his final decision.