MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Marquette University is getting some national attention for an alleged incident that occurred in a classroom. That incident has the controversial Westboro Baptist Church planning a protest on campus set for next week.
It all started during an Ethical Theory class. An instructor was allegedly dismissed a discussion about same-sex marriage during class. A student accused her of doing so after the class, and proceeded to have a discussion with her on that topic.
Many students at Marquette University heard about what happened nearly a month ago now via political science professor John McAdams' blog.
"The student came to me and told me about it," McAdams said, "It was an abuse. Essentially the student talked with the instructor after class and he wanted to discuss gay marriage in class."
That student recorded the after-class conversation between himself and his instructor, Cheryl Abbate, a philosophy graduate student.
In that conversation, the student is heard saying: "It's still wrong for the teacher of a class to completely discriminate one person's opinion."
Abbate later responds by saying: "You can have whatever opinion you want, but I will tell you right now -- in this class, homophobic comments, racist comments, sexist comments will not be tolerated."
The instructor of the ethical theory class in question, Cheryl Abbate, tells Fox 6 while she can't directly discuss the incident, she did tell an editor of the blog "Daily Nous” that that the discussion was irrelevant to the lesson.
Now, academic professionals across the country are getting in on the debate. In many cases, they're pointing the finger at McAdams for blogging about the incident. An open letter to Marquette University, which has received over 400 signatures reads in part:
"I hope that you will offer your support to Ms. Abbate and take steps to ensure that Professor McAdams learns the rudiments of professional behavior in the future."
"I think a lot of these people don't actually consider it an abuse. That is to say they think it's just fine to say arguments against gay marriage are homophobic," McAdams said, "I think they think it’s just fine that certain groups are not exposed to argument that they are presumed to disagree with."
While Marquette University officials are keeping somewhat quiet about the incident, it's not that easy for students who know Westboro Baptist Church members could be coming to their school during finals.
"Everything that Westboro Church has done before has been rude and intrusive, so I think it will continue in that sense. I think they are here to stir it up -- stir the pot," one MU student said.
“Definitely distracting,” said another.
Marquette University has issued this statement to FOX6 News:
"Marquette University is reviewing both a concern raised by a student and a concern raised by a faculty member. We are taking appropriate steps to make sure that everyone involved is heard and treated fairly. In compliance with state and federal privacy laws, we will not publicly share the results of the reviews.
As a university, we inform and engage students on a comprehensive view of societal issues. Like colleges and universities across the country, debate and discussion are essential elements of our intellectual environment at Marquette, where our faculty and students have the ability to explore ideas, express opinions and participate in discussion.
We have processes in place for students who have concerns related to academic matters. Depending on the circumstances, a student may refer concerns to his or her academic chair, an associate dean, the dean of a college or the provost.
Faculty members who express concerns alleging harassment may also refer concerns through these standard channels of authority. The university is committed to maintaining an environment in which the dignity and worth of each member of its community is respected. As stated in our harassment policy, the university will not tolerate harassment of or by students, faculty and staff."