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Tue May 3, 2016, 03:09 PM

A university moved to fire a professor after he defended a student’s right to debate gay marriage.

A university moved to fire a professor after he defended a student’s right to debate gay marriage. Now he’s suing.

By Susan Svrluga May 2 at 5:12 PM

A tenured professor and a legal institute are suing Marquette University, claiming a breach of contract for the suspension imposed after he publicly criticized an instructor for stifling debate in class.

The conflict began in 2014: After a student complained after a philosophy class that he was disappointed that he and others who question gay marriage had not been allowed to express their views during the classroom discussion, the graduate-student instructor told him that opposition to gay marriage was homophobic and offensive and would not be tolerated in her theory of ethics class. John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at Marquette, blogged about it, writing that the instructor “was just using a tactic typical among liberals now. Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”

The story went viral, touching as it did on the heated debates over issues such as campus culture, gay rights, academic freedom, whether students should be protected from comments they find offensive or hurtful, and where the lines should be drawn in discussions of charged topics such as race and sexuality to ensure that people don’t feel stigmatized or unsafe. The instructor was targeted on social media by people angered by McAdams’s account of the incident and ultimately left the university.

{‘Coddled’ students and their ‘safe spaces’ aren’t the problem, college official says. Bigots are.}

McAdams was suspended without pay the following month and banned from campus, and in March of this year he was told by university president Michael Lovell he could not return to teaching unless he wrote a letter acknowledging that his behavior had been reckless and incompatible with Marquette values and that he feels deep regret for the harm he did to the instructor.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

Here is the notice of suspension from December 2014:

Here is the notice of proceedings to terminate from January 2015:

Here is the letter from the university president to McAdams in March, explaining his decision to suspend him without pay and that his return to teaching in January 2017 is contingent on McAdams writing a letter acknowledging that his blog post was reckless and incompatible with Marquette values and that he feels deep regret for harm to the instructor involved:

Here is the president’s follow-up letter to McAdams in April:

And here is the full report from the Faculty Hearing Committee about this matter:

Marquette begs to differ:

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers on personnel matter

What happened here?
Dr. McAdams disagreed with the way one of our graduate students led a classroom discussion. Instead of expressing those concerns through established internal channels, he chose to blog about our graduate student — publicly shaming her, questioning her values and including a link to her contact information. He sought opportunities to amplify his public shaming of her on cable news and talk radio. Through those actions, he exposed her to a constant stream of threats and hateful messages. At one point, Marquette had to station a public safety officer outside her classroom. She chose to leave the university. The university reviewed Dr. McAdams’ conduct.

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