‘Vindicated:’ Wisconsin Supreme Court orders Marquette University to give suspended professor his job back

John McAdams

MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin Supreme Court is ordering Marquette University to give a suspended professor his job back.

"That feels very good. My case has finally been vindicated," John McAdam McAdams said Friday, July 6.

It's been nearly four years -- seven semesters -- since John McAdams taught a political science course at Marquette University.

Marquette University

"It's frustrating. I don't like being out of the classroom. I like teaching," McAdams said.

McAdams was suspended in 2014 for a blog post that criticized another instructor who had refused to allow a debate over gay marriage in her classroom.

"Marquette Warrior"

"Dr. McAdams does not believe that that's what a university is about, and he said so," said Rick Esenberg, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

Rick Esenberg

On Friday, July 6, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that the university was wrong to discipline McAdams because the blog post was protected by the doctrine of academic freedom.

"Academic freedom means something. It doesn't mean that the administration or your colleagues get to decide after the fact whether they like what you say or they like the way you said it," Esenberg said.

"This has nothing to do with politics," said Ralph Weber, Marquette University attorney.

Ralph Weber

Despite the ruling, Marquette University is not backing down from its position.

"A tenured professor put a graduate student`s name and a link to her contact information on the internet so that people could go after her. That`s not academic freedom, that's cyber bullying," Weber said.

"It's unfortunate that Marquette was not able to see the blog post for what it was. The Wisconsin Supreme Court corrected them. Unfortunately, the statement that they put out today suggests that they still do not get it," Esenberg said.

As for McAdams, he is looking forward to teaching once again -- and of course, continue his now-infamous "Marquette Warrior" blog.

"Marquette Warrior"

"Do you expect that you'll be right back at criticizing Marquette administration and its professors?" asked FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn.

Marquette University

"Anytime something comes to my attention that's pretty outrageous, and I can source it properly, yep. It'll be on my blog," McAdams answered.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote that the majority failed to recognize the university's academic freedom to fulfill its mission as a private, Catholic university.

Marquette University released the following statement on this story:

"At Marquette University, we are proud that we have taken a stand for our students, our values and our Catholic, Jesuit mission.

"Marquette will comply with the terms of this decision, and it does not change the university’s commitment to the safety and well-being of our students. This is inherent in our mission as a Catholic and Jesuit university. This case has always been about Associate Professor John McAdams’ conduct toward a student teacher. The professor used his personal blog to mock a student teacher, intentionally exposing her name and contact information to a hostile audience that sent her vile and threatening messages. Fearing for her safety, the former student teacher left the university, a significant setback to her academic career and personal well-being.

"To us, it was always clear that the professor’s behavior crossed the line. This was affirmed by a seven-member panel of the professor’s peers, and by a Wisconsin Circuit Court judge. However, in light of today’s decision, Marquette will work with its faculty to re-examine its policies, with the goal of providing every assurance possible that this never happens again.

"This case has never been about academic freedom or a professor’s political views. Had the professor published the same blog without the student-teacher’s name or contact information, he would not have been disciplined. Marquette has been, and always will be, committed to academic freedom. Marquette welcomes a wide variety of views and perspectives and is a place where vigorous, yet respectful, debate happens every day.

"This case has been watched closely by the local and national business community because of its emphasis on private employers’ rights to maintain behavioral standards for employees. This is why the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers filed briefs in support of our case. As a private employer, Marquette must have the right to set high standards for conduct and ensure that this never happens to another one of its students. As a university, we will do whatever we can to ensure that this decision does not erode that right.

"This case also is significant to every institution of higher education in the country. The balance of rights and responsibilities of tenured faculty members is a tradition that goes back more than a century. By discarding a contractually established disciplinary process when a professor crosses the line, this decision may significantly harm institutions’ ability to establish and enforce standards of conduct. This is why the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities filed briefs in support of our case.

"Academic freedom must include responsibility. Unfortunately, Marquette can’t undo the significant harm that he caused to the former student teacher’s academic career. We must, however, ensure that this doesn’t happen to another student. Marquette will continue to uphold its values and protect its students."