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SCOWIS agrees to take case involving former MU professor who sued after his suspension for criticizing grad student on his blog

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John McAdams

MILWAUKEE — The Supreme Court of Wisconsin agreed Monday, Jan. 22 to hear the case of a former Marquette University professor vs. the university.

John McAdams sued after he was suspended for criticizing a graduate student in his blog in 2014. The graduate student was recorded instructing a class — telling another student that he could not express his disagreement with same-sex marriage in her theory of ethics class because doing so would be homophobic and offensive. The suit alleges the university illegally suspended McAdams in fall 2014 and officials made the decision to terminate his tenure and fire him from Marquette.

McAdams used her name, and the graduate student was bombarded with hate messages. In response, McAdams was suspended from teaching at Marquette and banned from campus, initiating proceedings to revoke his tenure and fire him. Ultimately, MU President Michael Lovell suspended him indefinitely without pay unless he issued a written apology for his behavior. McAdams said he would not accept any resolution that involves any level of punishment for him, because that, he said, would be an affront to “academic freedom.”

Marquette University issued this statement:

“Marquette University welcomes yet another chance to address the issue of John McAdams’ mistreatment of our former graduate student in court. In January 2016, Marquette’s 7-member Faculty Hearing Committee unanimously concluded that he violated his core obligations as a tenured professor when he used his blog needlessly and recklessly to harm our student. In May 2017, a Milwaukee County judge issued a 33-page decision dismissing all claims against Marquette University. The judge stated, “Academic freedom does not mean that a faculty member can harass, threaten, intimidate, ridicule, or impose his or her views on students.”

Our position on this matter has not changed. A faculty member’s reckless internet attack on one of our Marquette students is unacceptable. Furthermore, we remain deeply concerned about the attention that Dr. McAdams continues to focus on our former graduate student, exposing her personal contact information as recently as last month. These troubling actions show that he either cares nothing about exposing her to additional harassment, or is actively trying to expose her to additional harassment, more than two years after she left Marquette.

Please note that other details regarding Marquette’s position on this matter can be found in the university’s Frequently Asked Questions and Answers document.”

The Supreme Court will likely hear oral arguments in April or May and issue a ruling by July, according to the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

According to a press release from WILL, “WILL asked the court to take the case because there is no binding precedent on the question of how far academic freedom extends. A ruling from the court will also provide a standard for the rights of professors at UW System schools and private universities and colleges that also promise their faculty academic freedom.”