April 4th was deadline for suspended MU professor to write letter of apology; he's refused

MILWAUKEE -- Monday, April 4th was the deadline for Marquette University professor John McAdams, who is currently suspended from the university, to submit a letter of apology in order to get his job back. McAdams instead sent a response to MU President Michael Lovell indicating he is "refusing to compromise his principles by admitting something he believes to be wrong."

John McAdams

This all began when McAdams wrote a blog post critical of a graduate instructor at Marquette University who told an undergraduate student that expressing opposition to gay marriage was homophobic and would not be tolerated in her class.

After the instructor started receiving hate mail, Marquette University suspended McAdams and banned him from campus.

The university then initiated formal proceedings to discipline McAdams.

In a statement, McAdams' attorney, Rick Esenberg with WILL (Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty) said this:

President Lovell has now stated that he is suspending McAdams without pay and will fire McAdams unless he signs a letter by April 4th acknowledging that his blog post was “reckless” and expressing “deep regret for the harm suffered” by (the graduate instructor). Despite his claims that he is merely imposing the faculty committee’s recommendation, the committee recommended only the suspension.

President Lovell’s subsequent public statement claims that McAdams “inflicted” a “personal attack” on the graduate instructor, which is simply not true. McAdams’ blog post was critical, but neither rude nor incendiary. Lovell is trying to make McAdams vicariously responsible for the actions of others over whom he has no control. Despite his claims otherwise, that is the only ground Lovell is relying on to punish McAdams.

McAdams’ letter (issued on April 4th) rejects President Lovell’s demands.

It states that McAdams he believes his actions have always been consistent with Marquette’s values – in fact, he was protecting them by standing up for the undergraduate’s right to free academic discourse. It expresses regret that (the graduate instructor) received such hateful emails, but denies that he was reckless or somehow responsible for others’ actions - academic freedom means nothing if a professor can be punished for the actions of third parties.

It also highlights that the Faculty Hearing Committee concluded that Marquette violated the Faculty Statutes when it summarily suspended him and banned him from campus.

Finally, the letter points out that Lovell’s demand that McAdams pen a mea culpa or be fired is itself a violation of the Faculty Statutes.

McAdams' letter, dated April 4th, is available HERE.

Lovell on March 31st issued “a call for decency” following what he characterized as a “stream of hate and threatening messages” leveled against the former MU graduate instructor on the internet. This, after MU officials moved to suspend McAdams without pay until January 2017.

Marquette University President Michael Lovell

A call for decency

A message from Marquette University President Michael Lovell

One week ago, I asked Professor John McAdams to apologize for actions he took to publicly shame one of our graduate students.

As a direct result of his actions, our student — who has since left the university — was subject to a stream of hate and threatening messages.

Professor McAdams characterizes the barrage as “some nasty e-mails and blog comments” directed at the student. But his attempt to downplay what happened doesn’t come close to reality. I feel it’s important to clarify exactly what Professor McAdams so quickly dismisses.

Warning: The following messages are disturbing. Our former student’s name is obscured along with the names of those who posted.

These are just a tiny sample of the type of messages directed at our student, day in and day out. Others are far worse, if that can be imagined. She continues to receive hostile and threatening messages to this day.

Constructive dialogue and vigorous debate cannot exist when our discourse is so degraded. I’m not under any illusions about deplorable behavior on the Internet. Yes, it exists.

But what’s at issue here is a professor inflicting this type of personal attack on a student. That is simply unacceptable.

In the steps we took to resolve this matter, I asked Professor McAdams to take responsibility for his actions and show some remorse for what he put our student through. In response, Professor McAdams defiantly said he would apologize “when hell freezes over.”

Professor McAdams alone can decide whether or not he is remorseful for his actions. But if we are going to sustain our community and be true to our human values, we all need to engage in civil disagreement — not gleeful sabotage and destruction.

I’m not asking for Professor McAdams to be responsible for all the vitriol from the lowest of the Internet. As the president of Marquette University, I am asking for common human decency toward members of our own community. Nothing more and nothing less.

John McAdams

Marquette University

John McAdams

“Following the faculty statutes, a Faculty Hearing Committee made up of seven of Professor McAdams’ peers conducted a hearing over a period of four days last September. The committee consisted of a diverse set of tenured faculty members from different academic disciplines. After months of deliberations, the committee issued a thorough 123-page report to my office in January regarding Professor McAdams’ actions.  It is noteworthy to mention that the report provided a unanimous recommendation on a path forward regarding the issue under consideration.

“Today, I want you to know that after significant personal deliberation, I have decided to formally implement the Faculty Hearing Committee’s unanimous recommendation. While I cannot provide specific details of the recommendation because it relates to a personnel matter, I can assure you that my decision has been guided by Marquette University’s values and is solely based on Professor McAdams’ actions, and not political or ideological views expressed in his blog.

“In closing, I want to sincerely thank the seven faculty members who served on the Faculty Hearing Committee.  They provided substantial service to the university through their extremely thorough, objective and diligent approach throughout this process.”


In a letter dated January 30, 2015, Marquette officials informed McAdams the university was moving to fire him.

In part, the letter reads:

“Instead of being a mentor to a graduate student instructor learning her craft, including how to deal with challenging students, you took the opportunity to publicly disparage her.”

McAdams believed the issue wasn’t what he did, but rather, the belief he expressed.