Marquette University statement on Wisconsin Supreme Court decision -- July 6, 2018
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.
Marquette lives by its Guiding Values, including cura personalis, or care for the whole person. We cannot and will not stand by when a professor needlessly and recklessly harms a student teacher by putting her name and contact information on the internet before a hostile audience without her permission. If John McAdams had written the exact blog post and omitted the student teacher’s name and contact information, no disciplinary action would have been taken.
The McAdams vs. Marquette case strikes at the core of who we are as a university. When a professor violates professional responsibility toward one of our students, Marquette must be able to respond with discipline. This is not about academic freedom or freedom of speech – it is about a professor’s unprofessional conduct toward a student teacher that resulted in direct, irreparable harm. John McAdams treated our student in a manner that does not represent our Guiding Values as a Catholic, Jesuit university, and in doing so, violated his contract.
MYTH: John McAdams' employment contract has no limits on what he can say on the internet.
FACT: John McAdams' employment contract requires him to act professionally as a Marquette
MYTH: McAdams was disciplined for expressing conservative views, which he and his lawyers
have suggested are not welcome at Marquette.
FACT: Disciplinary action was taken against John McAdams because he jeopardized the safety
of a student teacher, putting her directly in harm’s way by publishing her name and
contact information on his blog. Over the past 40 years Marquette never called John
McAdams’ conservative views into question, including his publishing more than 3,000
blogs and internet postings on a variety of topics.
MYTH: John McAdams exhausted all other options, and his only choice was to post the incident
to his blog.
FACT: John McAdams explored no option other than using his blog to dox a student teacher.