Supreme Court Rules for Professor in Viral Blog Case


July 10, 2018 3:12 PM
by Susan Dutca
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Friday that Marquette University wrongfully suspended a political science professor after he criticized a graduate student over a discussion on gay marriage. It also ordered the university to reinstate him and pay damages immediately. The court's 4-2 decision in favor of professor John McAdams determined that Marquette violated McAdams' academic freedom as defined in his contract.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Friday that Marquette University wrongfully suspended a political science professor after he criticized a graduate student over a discussion on gay marriage. It also ordered the university to reinstate him and pay damages immediately. The court's 4-2 decision in favor of professor John McAdams determined that Marquette violated McAdams' academic freedom as defined in his contract.

In 2014, McAdams wrote in his blog that "a student instructor was wrong to tell students it was inappropriate to voice disagreement with gay marriage in class." Marquette suspended McAdams, along with student instructor Cheryl Abbate, who "likened opposition to gay marriage to racism and sexism." Abbate had allegedly told a student not to express an opinion opposing same-sex marriage in the ethics class. After McAdams detailed the incident in his blog, he was suspended for using his academic freedom to publicly criticizing students. The blog post included a link to Abbate's own blog, which contained her personal contact information, allegedly "exposing" her to a "hostile audience." Although Abbate received "vile" and "threatening" emails and letters, McAdams claimed he did not have connections to third parties who harassed or threatened her and had not "invited reads to be uncivil to her, either explicitly or implicitly."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision overturned the lower court's ruling, which had previously found that Marquette had not breached their contract with McAdams but rather, that McAdams had violated "professional standards" and that his academic freedom "does not mean a faculty member can harass, threaten, intimidate, ridicule."

McAdams said his emotions were "between elated and relieved" saying 'it's been tedious going [on] all of these semesters kind of in limbo, but it's really sweet to win." McAdams plans to return to teaching at the university and is currently working on a book titled Sixty Politically Incorrect Things You Should Know.

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Pedro R.  on  7/11/2018 1:02:23 PM commented:

I absolutely agree with the Supreme Court's decision. Abbate was wrong to try and silence a political opinion, simply because she did not agree with it. It was strictly unprofessional for her to do so, especially in a Political Science class- where differences of opinion should be invited. It is a shame that an institution of higher learning would agree with such unprofessionalism.

Photo courtesy of The Nation

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