Stripped of tenure for a blog post
February 9, 2015 8:52 PM   Subscribe

"Stripped of tenure over a blog post." John McAdams, a tenured politics professor at Marquette University, has been terminated for publishing a blog post critizing a philosophy graduate student, by name, for telling an anti-gay-marriage student he could not make "homophobic comments" on the subject in class, in a conversation the student surreptitiously taped and shared with McAdams. The graduate student was subsequently flooded with hate mail and threats, and has moved to a different university. The case recalls that of Steven Salaita, who was either fired from or unexpectedly un-hired to a tenured position at the University of Illinois after a series of fiery tweets critical of Israel and its war conduct, which some called hate speech. Salaita is now suing the university. Can tenured professors be fired for what they say on social media? Should they be?

Elsewhere: Larry Summers weighs in on academic freedom, taking the position that any speech code or ban on hate speech is a fundamental threat to academic freedom (without specific mention of either McAdams or Salaita.)
posted by escabeche (220 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why am I not surprised that Larry Summers opposes consequences for saying dumbass things?
posted by Dip Flash at 8:56 PM on February 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


If, as the Atlantic writer fears, tenured professors are now intimidated out of publishing personal, public, named and inaccurate criticism of their grad students, whose professional lives they already largely control, that sounds fucking amazing and probably a net win to academic freedom.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:06 PM on February 9, 2015 [117 favorites]


It seems that the Atlantic article has left out important information regarding McAdams' termination; this is the top comment:

"In McAdams' case, there is a relevant history. Specifically, he has a history of using his blog to attack not only faculty but Marquette students -- in the past he has made posts that, by name, attack undergraduates for things they have said on campus, bringing an avalanche of emails and even phone calls down on those undergraduates when his posts have -- as McAdams clearly intended -- been circulated on high-profile conservative blogs. In one case, he even telephoned a student's parents to ask about the student's involvement in bringing a "Vagina Monologue" production to campus.

I wouldn't take away tenure on this one incident, but on the other hand, clearly it is a threat to the functioning of a university if students have to fear that some prof might choose to alert the readers of RedState or listeners of Rush Limbaugh to any "liberal" comment they might make -- and that is just as true if instead a left-wing prof were reporting on comments made by conservative students to DailyKos."
posted by Auden at 9:11 PM on February 9, 2015 [121 favorites]


I think this falls into the existing category of "it's really hard to do something stupid enough to get you fired when you have tenure but some people find a way" and not a new category created to suppress free speech.
posted by fshgrl at 9:12 PM on February 9, 2015 [125 favorites]


And on preview it sounds like he's done it lots of times. Yep, this guy worked hard at losing tenure.
posted by fshgrl at 9:13 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Naming the TA (or even without naming but including details making identification straightforward like that is unacceptable (and one would expect that McAdams knew would the response targeting the TA would be ).

If the description of the TA's behavior in class is accurate, then she performed poorly in her job and that issue should be addressed internally by her department supervisors. Hers is much much lesser offense than McAdams' action though.

A cynic might think McAdams knew exactly what he was doing, and is fishing for a cushier tenured position at an university with campus politics more to his liking.
posted by Bwithh at 9:14 PM on February 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


An educator making public statements about a student is unprofessional...period...
posted by HuronBob at 9:14 PM on February 9, 2015 [22 favorites]


Publishing internal department disagreements with students by name on the internet? As hearsay, without having been there? Having done no follow up through internal channels? Really, the 'terminated' letter lays it out pretty devastatingly.

Yea, that should be a fireable offense. Just because he's a conservative doesn't mean he can flagrantly violate confidentiality, due diligence and common sense, then claim persecution.

Not that that will stop him from showing up on FOX News by tomorrow, or prevent him from a new life tenure as a Red State columnist.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:17 PM on February 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


From the comments on the Atlantic article, it seems like McAdams has previously done this sort of public criticism of female graduate students on his blog. I'm not sure I want to extend the definition of academic freedom to include the right to post personal information about someone who was illegally recorded, especially if his blog resulted in enough harassment that the graduate student needed to change schools. That's bullying, and there's enough of that behavior in academia, especially towards women, without confusing it with the larger issues of academic freedom and the erosion of tenure.
posted by bibliowench at 9:18 PM on February 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


"In McAdams' case, there is a relevant history.

And if this is a pattern of dragging undergrads into the FOX/Rush/RedState media machine...wow. Just. Wow. He should've been fired after the first offense.

This isnt even remotely an "academic freedom" issue. It's a a basic human interaction and decency issue. This guy does not have the basic capacity to be responsible for or interact with undergraduate students.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:22 PM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


From the wikipedia page on tenure:
Later [court] cases specified other bases for dismissal: (i) if a professor’s conduct were incompatible with his duties (Trotman v. Bd. of Trustees of Lincoln Univ., 635 F.2d 216 (2d Cir.1980)); (ii) if the discharge decision is based on an objective rule (Johnson v. Bd. of Regents of U. Wisc. Sys., 377 F. Supp 277, (W.D. Wisc. 1974)).
This is only a matter of academic freedom because the usual chorus on the right wants to make it one. This guy was fired with cause for violating the university's code of conduct--several times.

Tenure doesn't protect you from yourself.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:22 PM on February 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


A cynic might think McAdams knew exactly what he was doing, and is fishing for a cushier tenured position at an university with campus politics more to his liking.

Color me cynical. Jackass was TRYING to fired to get attention and a cushy job at a white-men-have-rights-too conservative think-tank, etc.

I'd bet dollars to donuts that Professor John McWal-Mart does not really want his job at Marquette University.

I'm confused about his blog. Is it just him or a team of bloggers? Is he actually using the "royal we?"

Monarchist?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:23 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


A cynic might think McAdams knew exactly what he was doing, and is fishing for a cushier tenured position at an university with campus politics more to his liking.

Couldn't he just, like, you know, send out some resumes? Tenure's not the same as indentured servitude, is it?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:25 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Couldn't he just, like, you know, send out some resumes?

He decided to give a practical demonstration of his aptitude in being a complete shithead.
posted by Jimbob at 9:28 PM on February 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I was waiting for a post on this to pop up here, and I see Auden has added some key context about McAdams' pattern of bullying behavior, which he had been warned about according to Marquette Dean Richard Holz's letter announcing the university's action.

Academic freedom is not furthered by allowing professors to bully subordinates by doxxing them and exposing them to the the whims of Internet hate machine. The usual suspects are trying to make this into a "gotcha" with specious comparisons to Salaita and David Guth at Kansas, as if controversial speech aimed outside the university community is equal to repeated attacks on students who are in a subordinate position to a tenured professor. The grad student's own academic freedom matters, as does the academic freedom of anyone else at Marquette who might come into contact with someone with a pattern of doxxing students.

Seriously, fuck this guy.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:30 PM on February 9, 2015 [31 favorites]


He decided to give a practical demonstration of his aptitude in being a complete shithead.

Which, in some [political] circles in particular, is all the resume you need.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:31 PM on February 9, 2015


Yeah, this wasn't getting fired and losing his tenure, it was the final interview for the wingnut welfare scheme.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:32 PM on February 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Couldn't he just, like, you know, send out some resumes?

This method got him a lot more (free) attention. (Didn't even cost a stamp.) If you're going to quit anyway, it's not a horrible idea. He could also always float an unlawful termination suit and get a half-assed settlement.

If tenure can be taken away based upon one controversial blog post, what protection does it offer?

Some People Push Back
posted by mrgrimm at 9:34 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


How often does a philosophy class have "This is wrong." or "This is right." as a topic? The article mentions that the class discussed whether legalizing gay marriage would fit with Rawlsian philosophy. The student just wanting to jump into whether it's right or wrong, completely dispensing with the actual topic of the class really irritates me.

People being unable to discuss something in the context presented was one of my pet peeves back when I took a couple undergrad philosophy classes (in hindsight, I was probably guilty of it too because I was an idiot 18 year old and it's tough to leave aside the lens of your own experience).
posted by ODiV at 9:35 PM on February 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


Tenure means that one is no longer in a probationary position. It does NOT mean "job for life." It does NOT mean that one cannot be fired.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:37 PM on February 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


Point being--blog post, essay, book, article, haiku, whatever--they're all publications and yes, you'll need to account for your words, no matter where you say them.

Why does the article hinge so much on "blog post." A blog post is not as consequential as an Op-Ed in the NYT? No difference. If Dan Dennett wrote a blog post about how Muslims should be rounded up and killed, do you think he'd be fired? Of course he would.

How often does a philosophy class have "This is wrong." or "This is right." as a topic? The article mentions that the class discussed whether legalizing gay marriage would fit with Rawlsian philosophy. The student just wanting to jump into whether it's right or wrong, completely dispensing with the actual topic of the class really irritates me.

Based on the PDF, I believe his argument was that gay marriage hurts the children of that marriage (which is sort of ridiculous when you think about it), and she pretty much destroys that argument in two quick sentences.

He was trying to start a (stupid) fight, and she wasn't having it. Time is too valuable to waste on that shit. I think she addresses it fairly after class, if not perfectly. To be fair, discussing something in a private situation is different than discussing it in class.

But yeah, the whole thing seems almost engineered. And so trivial as to make me feel stupid for caring about it for 20 minutes. :(
posted by mrgrimm at 9:44 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this being part of a pattern that he'd been warned about switches my sympathy from weakly on the side of the misogynist shitbag to moderately against him. The post itself would deserve censure, but you keep doing it after being censured you're probably gon' get fired.
posted by klangklangston at 9:45 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not in academia anymore, thank God, but if I put this case in a business context then it becomes much less about freedom of opinion.

If I had a manager reporting to me who used her blog to name and shame someone hierarchically lower in the organization, I'd fire her too. Regardless of the subject matter, and particularly if it was a repeated offense.
posted by frumiousb at 9:46 PM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Friedersdorf's article is badly written, and false. I'm surprised and disappointed: he's raised a lot of important issues over the past few years and I think of him as one of the good guys.

Holtz' letter (linked above as "has been terminated") lays out the grounds for the termination pretty well, and identifies at least two specific previous instances of the same conduct:
In March 2008, you published the name of a student who worked in advertising for the Marquette Tribune after she had declined to run an advertisement highlighting alleged risks from the “morning after” pill. Only after that student contacted you to advise of the impacts upon her and to request you to cease and desist did you delete her name. In March 2011, you published blog posts regarding a student who was helping to organize a campus performance of The Vagina Monologues. Again, the harmful consequences of your unilateral naming of students were pointed out. You acknowledged at that time that publishing student names on the Internet was a matter of concern, but given your naming acknowledgment from 2011 appears to be without meaning or effect.
So Friedersdorf is factually wrong here. I find it very easy to believe that (as the Dean's letter puts it) McAdams' conduct has contributed to a culture of intolerance, threatened the practice of academic freedom, and often targeted women and those in a lower position of power in academic standing at Marquette. McAdams was aware that his conduct could lead to the student being harassed, and that he gleefully suggested that her views might make it hard for her to get employment elsewhere. He's not only a jerk, he's actively working against academic freedom and intellectual diversity. For him to now hide behind those principles is contemptible, and hypocritical.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:53 PM on February 9, 2015 [39 favorites]


Unprofessional asshole acts unprofessionally, defaming a colleague (and a person lower in the organisational heirarchy) and bringing his employer into disrepute. Plus exposing (likely by design) said colleague to the attentions of an online hate mob.

That behaviour would get anyone in any industry fired, and rightfully so.

There is no reason why it would be different for a tenured professor. Tenure is not a magic shield, nor should it be.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:56 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


For him to now hide behind those principles is contemptible, and hypocritical.

In the proudest conservative tradition.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:58 PM on February 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


A tenured prof who picks on undergrads like this is a cowardly, pathetic asshole.
posted by rtha at 10:04 PM on February 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's fun to go back and re-read the Friedersdorf article once you know about the Professor's pattern of behavior. The lies start with the title, and most of the first two paragraphs are at least misleading.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:09 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


From McAdams's blog post:


The student, a conservative who disagrees with some of the gay lobby’s notions of “gay rights” (such as gay marriage) approached her after class and told her he thought the issue deserved to be discussed.

That McAdams thinks gay marriage is a scare-quote "gay right" cooked up by "the gay lobby" really lays bare his agenda at the outset. Despicable. To say nothing of his unreserved endorsement of the conservative student's hamfisted James O'Keefe-like attempt to lay a trap for Abbate.
posted by xigxag at 10:15 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Back when I had delusions of academia, I remember a few conversations about how American humanities faculties had gone through a period of expanding rapidly and handing out tenure fairly generously, and that this had subsequently bitten them on the arse by creating a generational jam of immovable professorial objects spanning the entire partisan spectrum. In some institutions those senior members might show a tendency reminiscent of the least enlightened medieval courts to lord it over assistant professors and graduate students who often had very limited (or no) chance of advancement within that institution until the tenured fuckers died off.

The junior faculty and graduates who now have the bulk of teaching dumped on them for comparatively meagre rewards are left especially vulnerable, both from above and below. Some little shit decided to punk his instructor, McAdams piled on, and the slavering bits of the internet did what they do best.

Tenure isn't sovereign immunity. Sadly, the wingnut welfare "fellowship" McAdams inevitably waltzes into will be. Friedersdorf can fuck right off.
posted by holgate at 10:21 PM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


The instructor Cheryl Abbate has two responses on her blog.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:23 PM on February 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm really disappointed in Scott Lemieux's take on the matter:

I, myself, would not use this forum to question the teaching of a colleague. And if he did so without getting his facts straight, as the university alleges, then his behavior was inappropriate. If you want to say that it merits, I dunno, a meeting with a dean or something, I won’t argue with you.

But revocation of tenure and firing? Not even close. The threats that Abbate received were appalling, but McAdams cannot be held responsible for the actions of third parties. John Wilson’s argument here is unanswerable. The clause that Marquette is using to justify the firing — “should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others” — would render academic freedom a nullity. It’s essentially a “civility” firing, and given the language it’s even worse than that. Any professor who ever made a mistake — even an honest mistake — in a public forum would be subject to revocation of tenure. Any remotely controversial statement could be a violation of the requirement to “exercise appropriate restraint.” Revoking McAdams’s tenure on this basis is unjustifiable in itself and would set an extremely dangerous precedent.


This is the same sort of bullshit we see with regards to free speech online - that if we take action against abuse, it will "chill speech", while ignoring how the abuse is already chilling speech by causing other people to refrain from speaking, lest they be attacked.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:27 PM on February 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


This is what happens when you let 4chan endow a chair at a major university.
posted by doctor tough love at 10:35 PM on February 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


So were all the people he attacked women? All of those the letter mentions are. So what makes his hackles go up and causes him to summon his followers to attack are women, women who discuss things like reproductive medicine, women's bodies, and the rights of gays to marry. Then his commenters send them rape threats, per the tedious norm. I suppose this guy is unconcerned with whether any of these women actually get attacked, or what kind of fear they must live in during a sudden deluge of rape threats.

And then I wonder what it must be like to be a woman in one of his classes. Would you ever dare open your mouth? After all, say something he doesn't like and you might be next.
posted by emjaybee at 10:42 PM on February 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


He was trying to start a (stupid) fight, and she wasn't having it. Time is too valuable to waste on that shit.

No, the right way to completely shut him down would have been "We weren't talking about whether it's right or wrong. Only whether it conforms to Rawls' principle or not." There was no need to engage with his argument at all.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:53 PM on February 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


So...repeated displays of uncollegial conduct*, and the repeated public naming of students on his personal blog for political reasons, despite having been reprimanded for doing so. Friedersdorf and everyone else questioning this clearly don't understand what academic freedom is (and more importantly what it isn't).

*which courts have held to be cause for dismissal in other cases
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 10:56 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


women who discuss things like reproductive medicine, women's bodies, and the rights of gays to marry.

...or women who have the audacity to go to university and even seek to teach in one.

I picture a ~20-year-old James O'Keefe wannabe and a 69-year-old tenured professor conspiring yuckity-yuk-yuk both to shit on the academic career of a graduate student and direct an entirely predictable torrent of rape/death threats her way, and it sickens me.
posted by holgate at 11:08 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wasn't that the plot to "Rose Red"?
posted by clavdivs at 11:13 PM on February 9, 2015


When professors are fired like this, do they get a chance to make their case? Or appeal afterwards? That would make it fairer as a bureaucratic process, and more reasonable sounding as an event, wouldn't it? Or not?
posted by polymodus at 12:02 AM on February 10, 2015


Stepping back from this professor for a moment, and talking about the original event, there's something a bit odd about it.

Marquette University is Catholic, run by the Jesuits. Like it or not, the Catholic Church doesn't recognize non-traditional marriages. The original undergrad's comments opposing gay marriage were in line with Catholic Orthodoxy.

For the grad student to tell the undergrad he couldn't say such things (at a Catholic University) is a bit weird. Does she think she outranks the Pope?

She has a right to disagree, of course, but I don't think she has a right to pretend her own opinions are University policy when clearly they are not.

(No, I'm not claiming this justifies what McAdams did. I'm just pointing out that there are two stories here, not just one.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:14 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


So basically this guy spent years acting as a spotter, calling in right-wing harassment airstrikes? And now he's mad that the college administration didn't consider that to be acceptable behavior?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:14 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


When professors are fired like this, do they get a chance to make their case? Or appeal afterwards? That would make it fairer as a bureaucratic process, and more reasonable sounding as an event, wouldn't it? Or not?

Yes. From the second link:
Therefore, in accord with Section 307.03, we are commencing as of this date the procedures for
revoking your tenure and dismissing you from the faculty. Please refer to Chapter 307 of the Faculty
Statutes for the procedures that will ensue. If you file a timely objection, we will of course provide
the conferences outlined in Section 307.05 and thereafter, if necessary, proceed with the Faculty
Hearing Committee process under Section 307.07. You of course will be provided all the process to
which you are due. We likewise expect you to comply with these procedures, including but not
limited to Section 307.08.
posted by traveler_ at 12:15 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


First of all, that transcript of the secretly-recorded conversation is comedy gold. Read this sick burn by Abbate:
Abbate: I don't think gay marriage has- first of all, I would really question those statistics.

S: I'll send them to you.

Abbate: Just like you were going to send me the other statistics about tail docking and ...

S: Tail docking?

Abbate: That it doesn't cause pain.

S: Oh yeah, I'll send those to you as well.
I'm sure you will, kid. I'm sure you will.

Second of all, McAdams is clearly both engaging in misconduct and being dishonest. But I'm a little skeptical of Abbate's position that students should not be allowed to state homophobic or otherwise shitty views in class:
Abbate: You can have whatever opinions you want but I can tell you right now, in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, and sexist comments will not be tolerated. If you don't like that you are more than free to drop this class.

S: Are you saying that if I don't agree with gays not being allowed to get married, that I am homophobic?

Abbate: I'm saying that it would come off as a homophobic comment in this class.
I think most of us agree that the student's position is reprehensible and should be opposed politically and socially, but are we really saying that students should not be allowed to state their views in class? Setting aside for the moment the fact that doing so in this particular class discussion about Rawls' theory would be inappropriate, I'm not sure I'm in favor of that approach. If someone's a misogynist or a homophobe or a violent anarchist or a violent xenophobe then let them state those views and we'll duke it out in words. I'm sure with a little effort we all could see how someone with opposite political views to our own could use such a policy against us.

Regardless, I'm in favor of McAdams getting let go.
posted by daveliepmann at 12:15 AM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Students shouldn't be subjected to a discussion over whether their existence is legitimate or not, which is what sexist, racist, and homophobic remarks amount to.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:20 AM on February 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


I think most of us agree that the student's position is reprehensible and should be opposed politically and socially, but are we really saying that students should not be allowed to state their views in class? Setting aside for the moment the fact that doing so in this particular class discussion about Rawls' theory would be inappropriate, I'm not sure I'm in favor of that approach.

She repeatedly said "in this class ... this class ... in this class". In other words, her limitation was a restricted one: it applied during the discussion of Rawl's Theory of Justice, not (as she says elsewhere) a hypothetical discussion of the Catholic understanding of Natural Law. In that case, I suppose, homophobic arguments would be part and parcel of the discussion.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:24 AM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


If someone's a misogynist or a homophobe or a violent anarchist or a violent xenophobe then let them state those views and we'll duke it out in words.

The instructor's website mentions she had a safe-space policy in her class in accord with Marquette's harassment policy, which covers statements about gender and sexual orientation that demean, ridicule, or cause emotional discomfort.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:24 AM on February 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


On the one hand I am glad that he will be removed from his position, on the other I would love for there to be a way to contain him and see that he not profit from this. Keep him in his position but keep him from teaching or having any effect on the student body, lock him up in the ivory tower. Why do miserable people like him always seem to get away with or get rewarded for their vile behavior?
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 1:08 AM on February 10, 2015


So tenure only means something if you follow the script.
posted by holybagel at 1:10 AM on February 10, 2015


So tenure only means something if you follow the script.

Academic tenure is the right to not be terminated without just cause.

This is just cause.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:14 AM on February 10, 2015 [50 favorites]


holybagel: what exactly do you mean by that?
posted by el io at 1:15 AM on February 10, 2015


Joe, I read "in this class" as not the specific day of class, but the class she is teaching and the student is getting credit for. For instance, she invites the student to drop her class instead of stating that he thinks gay marriage is harmful.

I oppose homophobic views and would vociferously verbally attack those views in a philosophy class. However, I don't think that saying "I oppose gay marriage because I've read studies that say kids raised by homosexual couples have worse outcomes" is harassment of gay people in the class. It's wrong, it's to be condemned, but it's stating a political view, not attacking someone. I recognize that the school's harassment policy may differ, but it is vague enough that just about any statement about the protected groups could be considered harassment, since it causes 'emotional discomfort' or 'embarrassment'.

A college philosophy class—although not this particular day of this particular class, mind you—is exactly the place to explore those views and have them challenged.
posted by daveliepmann at 1:17 AM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Students shouldn't be subjected to a discussion over whether their existence is legitimate or not, which is what sexist, racist, and homophobic remarks amount to.
There are plenty of stupid, wrong views that are sexist, homophobic, or racist but that fall far short of challenging the existential legitimacy of people belonging to those groups.

If a college philosophy class is the wrong place to explore misguided ideas and have them challenged then I don't know what is. One of the purposes of school is to teach students why their naive, offensive views are wrong. That process produces stronger, more socially progressive people than saying "you have to drop my class because you're wrong".
posted by daveliepmann at 1:24 AM on February 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


I don't think that saying "I oppose gay marriage because I've read studies that say kids raised by homosexual couples have worse outcomes" is harassment of gay people in the class.

I'm not sure I understand why the victim's behavior is relevant, but subsequent to meeting the student who held that opinion, she went into class on October 30 and addressed the study he had in mind very directly and appropriately. See Holz's letter.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:30 AM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Monsieur, I saw that and think Abbate's way of addressing the study is solid. But she also states that saying "I don't agree with gays not [sic] being allowed to marry" (the 'not' being a misstatement) "would come off as a homophobic comment in this class" in the context of homophobic comments being reason to drop the class.

I disagree with the student, but think he should be able to state that rather common political view while in a philosophy class. (Again, it may have been inappropriate in that particular discussion about Rawls.) The process of trying to defend that view in the presence of people who have relevant lived experience is valuable. Do we expect students to come to college with their political views already fully and correctly formed?
posted by daveliepmann at 1:49 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


There are two things here. First, his interjection was a derail. If the class is enumerating "things to which Rawls' theory of justice are applicable", it is inappropriate to turn it into "things that skeeve me out". So he was told to bring it up after class - I wouldn't have been so generous, myself.

Secondly, the fact that his political views are not fully formed does not grant him the right to an audience. Quite apart from the derail, why should gay students be forced to listen to his drivel? They probably get enough of that outside the classroom. If it were part of the curriculum he would be expected to "do the reading", which he reportedly hadn't: I'm obscurely irritated that a student at a Catholic college couldn't make a good argument against gay marriage. But it wasn't part of the curriculum, so the only reason to let him commandeer the class for his rant would be to further marginalise gay students.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:45 AM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


A college philosophy class—although not this particular day of this particular class, mind you—is exactly the place to explore those views and have them challenged.

You know that philosophy is an actual subject, right? With a body of literature and everything? Like it sounds like you think the role of philosophy classes are to serve as some kind of general sounding board but they are actually meant to impart a specific set of knowledge.

Classroom management is not oppression of views.
posted by PMdixon at 3:56 AM on February 10, 2015 [50 favorites]


Live by the canard, die by the petard.
posted by CincyBlues at 4:04 AM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I majored in philosophy, yes. I am somewhat aware of the content and practices of undergraduate philosophy, including ethics and political philosophy. And I have made my opinions about classroom management pretty clear by noting several times that it would probably be inappropriate for the student to bring up his (shitty) views about gay marriage during the discussion of Rawls in question. Which, I would like to note, he did not. In none of the links do I see any claims that the student did any commandeering, ranting, or interjecting in that day of class.

I am not talking about using philosophy classes as a general sounding board. I am talking about Abbate's stated opinion that it is unacceptable, per general policy, to state disagreement with gay marriage at any time in class. That goes beyond classroom management.

I am rather surprised that so many commenters cannot imagine a scenario in which such a policy might be used against their own political views by someone of the student's politics. Do we want a professor like McAdams banning in-class assertions that he judges are attacks against religious Christians?
posted by daveliepmann at 4:10 AM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


> "She has a right to disagree, of course, but I don't think she has a right to pretend her own opinions are University policy when clearly they are not."

From the university's written policy (italics mine): "Harassment is defined as verbal, written or physical conduct directed at a person or a group based on color, race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, veteran status, age, gender or sexual orientation where the offensive behavior is intimidating, hostile or demeaning or could or does result in mental, emotional or physical discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule or harm. Harassing conduct can be either a single incident or a persistent pattern of behavior. Harassment includes not only offensive behavior that interferes with a person’s or group’s well-being or development, but also such behaviors that interfere with one’s employment, educational status, performance, or that create a hostile working, academic or social environment."

So, yeah, it pretty much is University policy and not just hers.
posted by kyrademon at 4:22 AM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Students try to argue with me about evolution on a regular basis. Sometimes during the section I teach on race and human variation, they espouse racist and irrelevant views. Sending them to office hours for additional discussion because something is outside the purview of the class is perfectly reasonable, and telling someone that this class is an inappropriate space for you to have your argument about x, y, or z is also perfectly reasonable. Just because I'm talking about the evolution of skin color doesn't mean I want to have a conversation about The Bell Curve, and I don't really have the expertise to facilitate a hard hitting conversation about race which could end up getting fairly ugly. Similarly, just because this instructor agreed that gay marriage would be a good example of an application of a philosophical principle, doesn't mean that it's the time or place for a pros and cons conversation, and I doubt that she wanted to facilitate that conversation in the context of keeping the classroom from becoming a giant argument. That's why there are political science courses about changing laws and mores, or gender and sexuality courses, or sociology classes, or anthropology classes, or probably even philosophy classes, with that particular topic as a topic of study.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:26 AM on February 10, 2015 [30 favorites]


That Atlantic essay was hard to take having first read this Inside Higher Ed article.

Discussing how well the grad student handled the situation is beside the point. McAdams has already managed to chase her away from Marquette. This story is about McAdams' behavior. If you are a tenured faculty member and you learn that a graduate student, who is just starting their career and may not have much teaching experience, is handling a class poorly, the thing to do is bring up your concern to that student's department chair. If your concern has merit the department can work with the student so that they become a better teacher. If this is a Ph.D. student it is in the interest of both the department and the student that the student improves their teaching and classroom management skills. It appears that McAdams chose not to take that route and instead decided to blindside the student and ruin their academic career before it got started.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:51 AM on February 10, 2015 [30 favorites]


This story is about McAdams' behavior. If you are a tenured faculty member and you learn that a graduate student, who is just starting their career and may not have much teaching experience, is handling a class poorly, the thing to do is bring up your concern to that student's department chair. If your concern has merit the department can work with the student so that they become a better teacher. If this is a Ph.D. student it is in the interest of both the department and the student that the student improves their teaching and classroom management skills. It appears that McAdams chose not to take that route and instead decided to blindside the student and ruin their academic career before it got started.

Yup; that's pretty well outlined in the termination letter-- there were several channels he should of gone through to express his concern. And, looks like, ironically, the student was, at the same time he was talking to McAdams, also going through the appropriate channels to complain about his TA's instruction (talking to Department Chair, who advised him to go to the college if he wasn't satisfied). An undergrad had a better grasp of grievance procedures than a tenured prof.

Also, it should be noted that, contra the insinuation in McAdams' post, the student dropped the course because he was failing (which, it seems like he was doing so before the incident in class).
posted by damayanti at 5:20 AM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


In response to the articles written about me, men began to leave comments about how I should be raped or killed. Some even went to Marquette University’s facebook page to express their desire that my brains be blown out. One person created a meme stating that I should “puke and die.” The most concerning and violent commentaries about me can be found in the comment sections of the websites IOTW Report and Auto Admit. These comments are, without a doubt, the most blatant expressions of overt misogyny— the comments consist of attacks on my personal appearance, claims that I should be raped (“Do bitchesNamed Cheryl Abbate need a goodRAPING?”), claims that I “suck cock,” claims that I “need dick,” references to men masturbating to a photo of me, statements about how men “Can’t wait to assfuck her [Cheryl Abbate] just like lying bitch,” and claims that I need to be “owned” or “made wet” in my classroom by a man.



I can't even words right now. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. He released this hate-machine - he should be judged by it.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:45 AM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it's pretty obvious that McAdams lost tenure because he played a key role in literally harassing a junior faculty member off campus. This poor woman's life has been permanently and negatively affected by what McAdams decided to do.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:51 AM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Well, I don't think that *anyone* should be using social media to badmouth people they work with and this cuts both ways. If a graduate student did what this guy did, the grad student should be kicked out too. Free speech doesn't mean you can post crap about someone on social media and a professional doesn't resort to trying to make themselves 'bigger' by throwing around this kind of career ending stuff on their blog.
posted by bluesky43 at 5:56 AM on February 10, 2015


There should be tenure for students!
posted by destro at 6:10 AM on February 10, 2015


I'm a pretty rabid free-speech absolutist, but this is not an exercise of free speech, it's an incitement to harassment. Maybe if this was the first time, he could plead ignorance, but at this point, he knows that every time he posts a name, he's soliciting a crime.

Worst of all, and the best reason to fire him, is that this violates the... Not confidentiality of the classroom, but the expectation of intimacy. I hate it when students call for the hordes to harass professors whose views they find retrograde, and this is much worse. A classroom is supposed to be a space for free and open discussion. And while I'm not thrilled with how the TA shut down such discussion (assuming she said what the post claims, which I'm not at all convinced about), the idea of every classroom utterance being subject to the scrutiny of the whole internet is appalling.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:12 AM on February 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


I find the idea of a faculty member targeting me for online harassment over imperfectly handling a student discussion absolutely terrifying. Like, gut-wateringly terrifying. It's not particularly likely in my case--the big complex topic that is currently most likely to come up for me is evolution and no one in my department is going to disagree with me over it--but I can actually imagine something nasty coming up in a course I previously taught for a prof who had very definite political opinions and used his class as a political soapbox. I wound up using my (completely open-ended) discussion sections to try very hard to teach the subject to my students, but of course those weren't connected in any way to their course grade. If he'd found out about something I'd done that he disagreed with, well, he was certainly not above publicly reaming me out for it in front of the students--that happened a couple of times over exam questions I'd written. Add some social media savvy to that.... brrr.

And the thing is, that experience was bad but not particularly unusually so. TAs usually get almost zero training or support for teaching and for handling classrooms. I'm lucky to currently be teaching for a prof who gives me advice on handling my classes and who has a plan for how she wants discussions handled and the material discussed in class. But like I said, I haven't always been that lucky, and the consequences of hiring grad students based solely on their interest and aptitude for research and then throwing them into TA classes with no practice, support, or real training--that is not a recipe for TAs who always handle tricky topics personally. ESPECIALLY for newer students. Adding more potentially nasty consequences for messing up feels like being set up for failure in a very nasty way.

I'm so glad that the department figured out how to set consequences for this guy. His presence in the department sounds like it was.... incredibly unwelcoming and upsetting for the women in the department, especially female grad students. Brrrr.
posted by sciatrix at 6:33 AM on February 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


Yeah, I mean, I get that everyone wants to argue about academic freedom, but the take-home for me here is that I could be slightly off my game one day in one class and as a result be the target of a full-on Gamergate-style harassment campaign. Fun! And confidence inducing!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:41 AM on February 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm really disappointed in Scott Lemieux's take on the matter

The more so because he and his chums have been so keen to assign the blame for George Bush's eight years in charge to 2000 Nader voters and yet here he casually states that this asswipe can't be hold responsible for threats by third parties, despite knowing exactly what he was doing.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:41 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe a Nader-ite derail isn't what this thread needs.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:45 AM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would love for there to be a way to contain him and see that he not profit from this. Keep him in his position but keep him from teaching or having any effect on the student body, lock him up in the ivory tower.

I've actually seen this happen to two tenured non-teaching academics. In both cases, while they kept their pay, they were stripped of offices, assistants, and regular duties and reassigned to out-of-the-way onerous tasks. I know of another tenured academic who, following a series of behavioral complaints, was basically paid not to teach at all. If Marquette wanted to pay this guy to just stay away, I expect they could. That they've gone to the trouble of firing him—at the end of his career—suggests that the lawyers have it all nailed down pretty well.

I haven't any sympathy for him. A 69 year-old targeting undergrads on a personal blog? What a pathetic bully.

The more so because he and his chums have been so keen to assign the blame for George Bush's eight years in charge to 2000 Nader voters

Can I hate this guy and Nader?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:47 AM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The instructor's website mentions she had a safe-space policy in her class in accord with Marquette's harassment policy, which covers statements about gender and sexual orientation that demean, ridicule, or cause emotional discomfort.

So hold the phone: We are saying that to disagree politically with gay marriage, to believe perhaps from a position of faith that gays shouldn't be permitted to get legally married = harassment, and thus the student isn't allowed to state his political opinion on this very timely and politically contentious public issue in class? That there is only one "permissible" opinion on this subject?

Wow.
posted by kgasmart at 6:54 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I worry that everybody is missing the irony here.
posted by destro at 6:54 AM on February 10, 2015


I worry that everybody is missing the irony here.

Perhaps you could enlighten us instead of making cryptic comments like this.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:01 AM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Jeez, that unnamed undergrad sounds like a little shit.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:07 AM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


We are saying that to disagree politically with gay marriage, to believe perhaps from a position of faith that gays shouldn't be permitted to get legally married = harassment, and thus the student isn't allowed to state his political opinion on this very timely and politically contentious public issue in class?

Who said that? Just you.

It's certainly bigoted nonsense, just the same as racist bigoted nonsense. Pity the poor bigots, I guess, and their piling on and actually harassing this grad student.
posted by ndfine at 7:14 AM on February 10, 2015


I think everybody would benefit from reading Abbate's recent FAQ that talks about what actually happened.
posted by kmz at 7:16 AM on February 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think most of us agree that the student's position is reprehensible and should be opposed politically and socially, but are we really saying that students should not be allowed to state their views in class? Setting aside for the moment the fact that doing so in this particular class discussion about Rawls' theory would be inappropriate

But you can't set that aside, because it's highly relevant. It wasn't appropriate to a class on Rawls any more than it would be to break into a physics course with your views about homosexuality.

More generally, the space for students to state their personal views about any given subject should be pretty limited, because personal views about actual subjects -- as opposed to personal views about academic works, the methods they use, how they relate to another, etc -- are only very rarely going to be actually relevant to a course. That is, "I (dis)like X" is only rarely going to be something appropriate to say even in a course or class that has X in the title.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:18 AM on February 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


All of those saying that she somehow shut this kid down have obviously not read her blog posts. Either that, or you think that whatever hot button topic a student wants to spout off about, regardless of its relevance to the topic at hand, is a precious snowflake that must never be challenged, no matter if it hurts others or is simply uninformed.

We are talking about a kid who was already failing her class, by his own admission, for not doing the work.

Should my kid go to college, I hope his unformed or uninformed ideas will be challenged. I hope he will not be coddled for fear of hurting his feelings when he is wrong about something, or does or says something that is hurtful. I am ok with a professor telling him "this is not the space for that discussion." That's what a college education should include. It is not abuse to tell a student such a thing. It is not censorship. It is moderating and directing a class discussion, a right any teacher should have in their own classroom. Said student is free to express his views on the internet, in the paper, in a book, or on the radio, should he wish to do so.
posted by emjaybee at 7:29 AM on February 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


From Abbate's FAQ:

It is also worth noting that there is a significant difference between the following claims:

1. Gay marriage is morally acceptable, and
2. John Rawls’s Equal Liberty principle would permit gay marriage


I feel bad that most of the laypeople who disagree with her are likely to assume "SISSY IVORY TOWER TALK" about halfway through this, and just hear that explanation as the muted-trumpet-adult-speech sound from the animated Peanuts specials.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:35 AM on February 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


"BUT THIS IS WHAT I BELIEVE"

It must be very hard work to get today's students to understand that that's not a legitimate argument
posted by thelonius at 7:38 AM on February 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


So hold the phone: We are saying that to disagree politically with gay marriage, to believe perhaps from a position of faith that gays shouldn't be permitted to get legally married = harassment, and thus the student isn't allowed to state his political opinion on this very timely and politically contentious public issue in class? That there is only one "permissible" opinion on this subject?

The accounts I have read do not create the picture you paint here. First, the instructor in this case stopped any discussion of gay marriage at all with regard to Rawls's principles, the topic of that day's class. (In fact, the inciting incident seems to have been a student saying that Rawlsian principles would *oppose* a ban on gay marriage: in other words, a pro-gay marriage argument.)

Second, the student who approached Abbate after class did not make a faith-based argument. He instead claimed that he had statistics showing tat children of gay couples "do worse in life" and that the should have been able to present that information in class as part of a larger debate about gay marriage. By stopping a discussion of gay marriage *of any sort, pro or anti*, the student argued, the instructor was stifling his intellectual expression. (The student likely does have a faith-based position, but it appears that he intended to make his arguments from Rawlsian principles instead per the topic of that day's class.)

The instructor's position regarding classroom policy seems to be, I think understandably, that a debate about gay marriage in a class that might or does include gay students would not simply be an intellectual exercise, but would in fact be an argument that those students would feel was a debate about themselves as people. Such a debate, in this understanding, is not merely a wonderful example of free political debate, but rather something that might well become genuinely painful for those students.

It would similarly be rather hard to have a debate about the merits -- not that there are any -- of The Bell Curve in a classroom; the argument would not just be about "genetics and intelligence," but would unavoidably carry the connotation that certain students *right there* were inferior to their peers in some essential way.

Or, hell, imagine asking McAdams to participate in a seminar about whether or not his activities mean that he should be fired and banned from the campus. Will that be a useful intellectual exercise, or will McAdams rightly perceive it as a threat against himself or as an institutionally supported form of harassment?

The idea, then, is that you can't have a freewheeling debate in the classroom if the humanity or status of the students themselves might be the stakes; it's going to damage the classroom dynamics, genuinely hurt people there, and likely produce lasting antipathies rather than intellectual activity. This doesn't mean that there is no place on a campus for such debates, or even that there are no ways to broach these topics in the classroom; it does mean that such debates have to be structured and managed carefully. If the topic arises spontaneously as it did in this case, or if the instructor does not feel the class can structure the debate, then it probably shouldn't happen in that classroom.

Yeah, I mean, I get that everyone wants to argue about academic freedom, but the take-home for me here is that I could be slightly off my game one day in one class and as a result be the target of a full-on Gamergate-style harassment campaign. Fun! And confidence inducing!

That's sort of the paradox here: if McAdams's blog falls under academic freedom, then how to we square that with thew actual chilling effect his speech had on Abbate's ability to state her own views? What do we do when one person's "academic freedom" plays a role in squelching someone else's? More broadly, "where" does a professor's blog fall, since the assumptions about the boundaries of the academic space in 1940 are arguably no longer operative in 2015?

More broadly, it seems to me that targeting graduate students, undergraduates, contingent faculty, and so forth in public or quasi-public fora probably should not fall under academic freedom. This is especially so because such people lack the kinds of institutional support on which academic freedom tacitly relies. It's hard, in some ways, not to see the response to McAdams's firing -- especially *after* Abbate was effectively forced from her position -- as less a robust defense of academic freedom and more a defense of tenure, which is also under attack from powerful interests. (Of course, the two concepts were always pretty closely wedded; the 1940s AAUP document everyone points to regarding academic freedom directly links the two. It was clearly composed in a time period when the majority of teaching was not done by adjuncts and grad students.)

Tenure is under attack, no doubt, but rallying around McAdams seems like a poor way to defend it, one that will -- rightly or wrongly -- confirm the suspicions of a lot of the contingent academic labor that teaches the vast majority of classes in 2015 that tenured faculty are quite happy with the current distribution of power and security within the academy.
posted by kewb at 7:39 AM on February 10, 2015 [27 favorites]


kewb, I see that you typed a lot of words there. But if I can simply respond without reading any of them: what if the student was punched JUST BECAUSE of his beliefs? Would you be so happy to hit a student? The Pope has never hit a student; do you think you're better than THE POPE????
posted by Greg Nog at 7:51 AM on February 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


"We weren't talking about whether it's right or wrong. Only whether it conforms to Rawls' principle or not."

That's absolutely the advice a supportive advisor should give her for the next time this comes up. It's a great tactic to keep the study group focussed and avoid these sorts of arguments.

However, that's kind of esprit d'escalier. She did amazingly well and kept a cooler head than most would have been able to, especially when discovering that turkey-head was recording. TAs are thrown to the lions without any more training than their own undergrad experiences. It's amazing the system works as well as it does.
posted by bonehead at 7:52 AM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Here of all places, you'd expect people would be familiar with active moderation against derails, threadshitting and axe-grinding.

(I would also note that the anonymous Little Shit F-Student started his conversation with a line -- "I would stress for you in your professional career going forward you're going to be teaching for many more years, that you watch how you approach those issues" -- that makes me think he was already plotting something involving Professor McGamerGate.)

one that will -- rightly or wrongly -- confirm the suspicions of a lot of the contingent academic labor that teaches the vast majority of classes in 2015 that tenured faculty are quite happy with the current distribution of power and security within the academy.

Like I hinted upthread, the generational distribution here starts to become problematic, as does the potential for tenure to transform previously vulnerable junior faculty into complacent self-protecting arseholes.
posted by holgate at 7:56 AM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


kewb, I see that you typed a lot of words there. But if I can simply respond without reading any of them: what if the student was punched JUST BECAUSE of his beliefs? Would you be so happy to hit a student? The Pope has never hit a student; do you think you're better than THE POPE????

Well, we know the Pope advocates punching people if they insult your mother or your religion, so I'd assume the student code of conduct permits it at a Catholic university.
posted by kewb at 7:59 AM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


punching people if they insult your mother or your religion

The technical term is "Box Dei"
posted by Greg Nog at 8:02 AM on February 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


But isn't Box Dei limited to the UK and Canada? Just like the Emancipation Proclamation, only affects areas not currently under Vatican influence.
posted by LionIndex at 8:22 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


So I should be able to enroll in whatever theodicy seminar and demand that we discuss Euthypro to my satisfaction, right? Otherwise I'm being oppressed.
posted by PMdixon at 8:23 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The technical term is "Box Dei"

I thought that was cheap communion wine.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:29 AM on February 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


No, a Box Dei is like a jack-in-the-box, except the crank plays a Gregorian chant when you turn it and when it's finished, the box pops open and excommunicates the Cathars.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:43 AM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


That's absolutely the advice a supportive advisor should give her for the next time this comes up. It's a great tactic to keep the study group focussed and avoid these sorts of arguments.

However, that's kind of esprit d'escalier.


The point is, she was absolutely right that the discussion the student wanted to have didn't belong in that particular class at that time, regardless of whether she was able to perfectly articulate why it didn't belong the moment he brought it up.
posted by straight at 8:52 AM on February 10, 2015


That is my point. She did handle it at least as well as could have been expected. Some advice for the next time sure, but no criticism of her handling of the situation on the spot. I'd go so far as to say I admire her calm and grace in dealing with an asshat.
posted by bonehead at 9:02 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


However, that's kind of esprit d'escalier. She did amazingly well and kept a cooler head than most would have been able to, especially when discovering that turkey-head was recording.

Total agreement.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:08 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


So tenure only means something if you follow the script.

Previously: Why can't Alabama just decide what Alabama wants?
posted to MetaFilter by holybagel at 2:24 on February 10, 2015


We are saying that to disagree politically with gay marriage, to believe perhaps from a position of faith that gays shouldn't be permitted to get legally married = harassment, and thus the student isn't allowed to state his political opinion on this very timely and politically contentious public issue in class?

In a relevant context. This is not a relevant context. The context: "Rawls' Equal Liberty principle would permit gay marriage." If you have an argument that can be framed in that context, then you should be prepared to present it. "Gay marriage is wrong because the Church says..." is not relevant to the context in which the question was presented. And as noted above, the "safe space" policy, and the university's harassment guidelines, while not precluding the discussion as such, would probably mean that it would have to be explicitly mentioned beforehand that there would be controversial and potentially troubling views presented (trigger warnings: they exist for a reason).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 9:32 AM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Now that I've read her clarifications and compared their clarity and thoroughness with McAdams' blog post, the Freecellwizard Theory of Justice says that after he's terminated, she should be given his professorship. THAT'S how you send a signal about your values.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:34 AM on February 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


We are saying that to disagree politically with gay marriage, to believe perhaps from a position of faith that gays shouldn't be permitted to get legally married = harassment, and thus the student isn't allowed to state his political opinion on this very timely and politically contentious public issue in class? That there is only one "permissible" opinion on this subject?

Yeah, actually, there is only one permissible opinion on this subject. If you are against full equality, I give zero fucks what your reasons are; you are a bigot who believes that I am less human than you. That is as unacceptable as saying that black people and white people shouldn't be allowed to get married, and people of alleged faith used that faith as an excuse then, too.

Which is beside the point that the discussion was irrelevant to that class.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:02 AM on February 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


Hear hear, fffm.
posted by Drexen at 10:20 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess you're forgetting a certain document:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal1..."

1. Except for those gays, they're icky.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:27 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seems relevant to point out that she recently left Marquette (likely because of this entire ordeal, but I don't think she's announced that publicly) and is now finishing her doctorate at the University of Colorado. That's a pretty big deal, particularly because the philosophy department didn't take any new PhD students in 2013-14, which isn't a great signal for the robustness of their department (although the robustness of philosophy as a discipline is already pretty questionable, as unfortunate as that is).

Talk about having to pay a misogyny tax - her entire life got upended because of this. I wonder how this will play out for her career trajectory.
posted by sockermom at 10:33 AM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I realize it was an ethics class, but my god classes generally should be devoid of explicitly normative arguments. Save them for the bar.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2015


"Yeah, actually, there is only one permissible opinion on this subject. If you are against full equality, I give zero fucks what your reasons are; you are a bigot who believes that I am less human than you. That is as unacceptable as saying that black people and white people shouldn't be allowed to get married, and people of alleged faith used that faith as an excuse then, too."

Just to push back against this: A lot of Queer Theory folks are against marriage for same-sex couples, in part because they're against marriage but some of them are also against it because they're anti-assimilationist.

I will say that I think the general justification of "Students need to be exposed to these views" is facile; minority students are already exposed to these views all the time. However, one of the things that I learned a lot from in my classes was how a professor could shut these arguments down and leave bigoted students with no robes for their bigotry. And that's without even getting to the level of John Corvino, who can shit rainbows around any right-wing objection to marriage for same-sex couples.

(I'll also say that I was the student going to office hours with a ream of academic research demonstrating that yes, Confederate soldiers thought that the Civil War was about slavery.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm rather mystified by the view that classes are sacred forums where any student may spout off about their hobgoblin topic of choice at any moment and to shut them down is Oppression. That does not, in fact, resemble any class I have ever taken and in fact would rather quickly reduce a class to non-functionality.
posted by tavella at 12:27 PM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


"I realize it was an ethics class, but my god classes generally should be devoid of explicitly normative arguments. Save them for the bar."

Probably my best and most incisive poli-sci teacher was incredibly adamant and effective about keeping his views out of our class — the closest we ever got to any concrete position out of him was that he had done his dissertation on Oakeshott. He was really, really good about getting students to examine their unsupportable assumptions, and a lot of that was because he didn't seem to have an opinion on the issues themselves.

(I've been kind of disappointed that in the last few years I haven't been able to track him down — he's not at my alma mater anymore, and I know that while he was tenure track he was actually making more money in teaching at private high schools, which is kinda grim on its own.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:28 PM on February 10, 2015


I once knew a professor who shut down our CS department's webserver, rather than talk to me directly about a page I had published. This was back when not all CS departments had webservers, so I just assumed we had experimented with having a server, then whichever student was running it got bored.

The page I had published wasn't a hate page, an attack, immoral, illegal, mean or even a rant.

It was a study guide for a computer science exam.

I only learned later why the server was down when the system administrator let it slip that it was all because of my page.

I learned that universities aren't always great about freedom of expression, unless perhaps you're a tenured professor, and that professors aren't necessarily good at expressing their feelings, needs, wants, etc to students in constructive ways. Which I realize is a bit of a duh moment – professors aren't selected for their people skills – but sometimes these failings intersect with, and undermine, the purpose of universities.
posted by zippy at 12:36 PM on February 10, 2015


It must be very hard work to get today's students to understand that that's not a legitimate argument

I remember taking Ethics intro with a bunch of nonmajor students because it was popular as an elective and prelaw students in particular felt it looked good on their transcripts. There was always somebody who would preface every statement with "As a Christian, I believe..." and it took everything I had to not yell "THAT IS NOT WHAT WE ARE DOING RIGHT NOW".
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:46 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Of course, if you're in a Bayesian class, its perfectly ok to shit on frequentism.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:03 PM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Most of the time, anyway.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


There was always somebody who would preface every statement with "As a Christian, I believe..." and it took everything I had to not yell "THAT IS NOT WHAT WE ARE DOING RIGHT NOW".

It's like taking an intro to formal logic course with philosophers. Is the use of 'if' in natural language fascinating and complex? Yes. Does this have anything to do with the function we are looking at right now? No. Shut up.
posted by jeather at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Since my criticism of Marquette's decision was mentioned in an earlier comment, I'll provide a link here. I think the key issue in this case is that McAdams had no professional relationship to Abbate: she was not his student, and he was not advising her. It is tempting to say that someone should be punished for the threats and abuse Abbate received. But McAdams is not that person: publicizing a case does not make you responsible for the statements of anyone who learns about it from your blog. Nor can I support the principle that a professor is obliged to never say anything publicly critical about anyone who is a student (especially a graduate student teaching another class). By that standard, the group of 88 faculty in the Duke lacrosse rape case should all be fired for expressing their condemnation of sexual assault. I think McAdams deserves criticism for his views, but Marquette policy, and AAUP standards, explicitly protect freedom of discourse.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 1:38 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


What was the 'case'?

Nor can I support the principle that a professor is obliged to never say anything publicly critical about anyone who is a student (especially a graduate student teaching another class)

Why not? He routinely publicized student's names and they were harassed (they were also all women).
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:43 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think the key issue in this case is that McAdams had no professional relationship to Abbate: she was not his student, and he was not advising her.

He was a tenured professor at the institution she was studying at.

In short, you are completely, totally, and absolutely wrong.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:48 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Keep in mind McAdams (who, after 35 years, had yet to attain full professorship, and also hasn't published anything of note in about that time) has done this again and again and again. He has repeatedly harassed women at his institution. I see no reason why he should keep his job.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:51 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Marquette policy, and AAUP standards, explicitly protect freedom of discourse.

Except the thing is she was upholding Marquette policy by not allowing homophobic statements in class.

Oh and that whole thing about how he's targeted women--only women, isn't that interesting--before. And been warned about it before.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:52 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the key issue is that McAdams seems to have violated a whole lot of university policies, as laid out in the letter. The university does not see it as relevant that the grad student was not one of his direct supervisees. They care that he violated - repeatedly, apparently - a host of policies.
posted by rtha at 1:52 PM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah its quite simple, really. Academic freedom does not protect one's freedom to harass students.

Either you don't agree with this, or you think that McAdams' behavior wasn't harassment. Pick your poison.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:56 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


McAdams had no professional relationship to Abbate: she was not his student, and he was not advising her

To call this splitting hairs would be charitable. Just because she wasn't his student doesn't mean she wasn't a student who had a lot to lose by being on the wrong side of McAdams' public attacks. The power imbalance between a tenured professor and a grad student instructor is such that care must be taken to protect the latter's academic freedom, which you seem to be ignoring for the purposes of protecting someone who used his position of power to bully multiple students, not just Abbate.

Also, he didn't just "publiciz[e] the case", he publicized her identity, which he had been specifically warned "multiple times" against doing. If you don't account for these facts, and you don't account for the student's own academic freedom, you're only telling part of the story.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:57 PM on February 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


But McAdams is not that person: publicizing a case does not make you responsible for the statements of anyone who learns about it from your blog.

Sorry, the "houcoudaknode" argument doesn't hunt. We didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday.

Nor can I support the principle that a professor is obliged to never say anything publicly critical about anyone who is a student (especially a graduate student teaching another class).

Good thing nobody is saying that, then!
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:01 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


But McAdams is not that person: publicizing a case does not make you responsible for the statements of anyone who learns about it from your blog. Nor can I support the principle that a professor is obliged to never say anything publicly critical

It'd be easier to get behind this if he hadn't, through his malcompetence, gotten nearly all of the material facts wrong. And it was his first such mistake - which it isn't.

Brian Williams has submarined his career over much, much less.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:03 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can tell this whole thing is bullshit when even wingnut hack extraordinaire Rod Dreher is conceding that the firing may be justified, but that this could somehow put us on a slippery slope to the extermination of free thought in the classroom. If your definition of "academic freedom" involves tenured professors using their clout and job protections to attack and publicly shame others multiple times for simply exercising their own right to self-expression in an academic setting, then the phrase no longer has any meaning.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:04 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, actually, there is only one permissible opinion on this subject. If you are against full equality, I give zero fucks what your reasons are; you are a bigot who believes that I am less human than you. That is as unacceptable as saying that black people and white people shouldn't be allowed to get married, and people of alleged faith used that faith as an excuse then, too.

Ah, there's only one permissible opinion on the subject. And you happen to hold it! How noble of you.

I wonder how many other topics there is "only one permissible opinion" on. I suspect you've got a list. I wonder how you would punish those who hold an "impermissible" opinion. Certainly prohibiting them from speaking their mind should only be the start.

In framing the debate this way, you are making McAdams's point for him, you are making Fox News's points for them. You are saying - there can be no argument against gay marriage, for any such argument is tantamount to hate speech, and thus must be suppressed.

The Pope himself should not be permitted to voice his opinion on gay marriage. At a Catholic University.

Yeah. That's gonna fly in America.
posted by kgasmart at 2:04 PM on February 10, 2015


The Pope himself should not be permitted to voice his opinion on gay marriage. At a Catholic University.

Please familiarize on the facts at hand that pertain to this case before you come in here making ridiculous assertsions.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:06 PM on February 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


Also, McAdams seems to have lied about his targets, if this writeup is accurate, as well as Abbate's comments here. So yeah, "stripped of tenure for a blog post" is a deeply dishonest framing. He was fired because he repeatedly harrassed students and co-workers.
posted by tavella at 2:06 PM on February 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Also, like everyone here, fffm only speaks for themselves. Whatever, though, since the point of whether being against gay marriage is ipso facto homophobic is completely irrelevant to anything we are talking about.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:07 PM on February 10, 2015


I think the key issue in this case is that McAdams had no professional relationship to Abbate: she was not his student, and he was not advising her.

The Dean's letter runs through both the reasons why McAdams was wrong, and the appropriate steps he might have taken. The first page has what amounts to an executive summary:
[...] it is vital for our university and our profession that graduate student instructors learn their craft as teachers of sometimes challenging and difficult students. Great teachers develop over time; many benefit from experienced mentors who share hard-earned insights. Thus, graduate student instructors should expect appropriate and constructive feedback in order to improve their teaching skills.
Multiple internal avenues of review were available to you if you believed a situation had occurred between a graduate student instructor and an undergraduate student that called for a corrective response. Instead, you chose to shame and intimidate with an Internet story that was incompetent, inaccurate, and lacking in integrity, respect for other's opinions, and appropriate restraint.
Basically: the university needs its TAs to learn and grow in their profession. McAdams ignored his professional duty as part of the faculty to assist this; he also ignored the correct procedure for registering his disagreement. McAdams' attack was spiteful; it was false; it was unprofessionally executed; it was calculated to shame and silence a viewpoint he disliked. He harmed the university academically by flouting academic standards; it is weak and hypocritical to say that academic standards should protect him in this endeavour.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:10 PM on February 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


Please familiarize on the facts at hand that pertain to this case before you come in here making ridiculous assertsion.

I'm sorry, are you asserting that were Pope Francis to take this grad student's class, and the subject of gay marriage came up, he'd be permitted to state his opinion?
posted by kgasmart at 2:10 PM on February 10, 2015


Ah, there's only one permissible opinion on the subject. And you happen to hold it! How noble of you.

It's not exactly 'noble' of me to demand equality for myself, actually.

there can be no argument against gay marriage, for any such argument is tantamount to hate speech

You're quite right.

The Pope himself should not be permitted to voice his opinion on gay marriage. At a Catholic University.

Not if it contravenes the university's own policy about hate speech, no. It was linked upthread.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:12 PM on February 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think McAdams deserves criticism for his views, but Marquette policy, and AAUP standards, explicitly protect freedom of discourse.

I don't think you understand. McAdams holds the "wrong" views, so he has no freedom of discourse.
posted by kgasmart at 2:13 PM on February 10, 2015


Well, like all good classes forever and everywhere, he will only be allowed to speak about things that are on topic, in this case that means that he would be free to talk about whether gay marriage is consistent with Rawls principle, and wouldn't be allowed to express his personal views about whether gay marriage is a good or bad thing.

But really, you don't give a shit, because you could only sincerely ask that question if you were completely ignorant of the facts of the case we are discussing.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:13 PM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


> McAdams holds the "wrong" views, so he has no freedom of discourse.

What do you say about his conduct towards students at his university, students who may have expressed views he disagrees with?
posted by rtha at 2:15 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Again, it is not about his views, its about his behavior, which was where he routinely harassed female students publicly. Keep defending that behavior.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:15 PM on February 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't think you understand. McAdams holds the "wrong" views, so he has no freedom of discourse.

I don't think you understand. McAdams caused the severe harassment of a student, which he has done before and been warned about before. His views are irrelevant.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:15 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


His views are irrelevant.

You just spent your last few posts arguing the exact opposite of this.

Yes, it's about McAdams's behavior, but the grad student's assertion that opposition to gay marriage for any reason whatsoever is tantamount to hate speech and thus prohibited is the key to this story - and the thing to which McAdams was (over)reacting.

Friedersdorf get this one right.
posted by kgasmart at 2:22 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, as long as you -- like Conor Friedersorf -- ignore the history of repeated doxxing attacks and warnings by the university, this can be made to look like someone being punished for their views.

And if my grandma had wheels, she'd be a streetcar.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:23 PM on February 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


"I don't think you understand. McAdams holds the "wrong" views, so he has no freedom of discourse."

Would you like to make an effort to not construct straw men, or is a request for that modest courtesy silencing for you?
posted by klangklangston at 2:23 PM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


You just spent your last few posts arguing the exact opposite of this.

No. The views espoused in class by the retrograde idiot--which, apparently, are also your views--are what I was talking about.

Fact: McAdams has published the names and personal information of female--and only ever female--students whose views he didn't like before.

Fact: McAdams has been warned by the university for doing so.

Fact: McAdams did it again, and was fired.

What about those three facts is unclear?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:25 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


1. Thou shalt not blog about work.
2. Unless thou shall, then thou shalt not blog about thine co-workers, clients, and students by name.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:27 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


it's about McAdams's behavior, but the grad student's assertion that opposition to gay marriage for any reason whatsoever is tantamount to hate speech and thus prohibited is the key to this story

Again, if you want to talk about these things, please be an adult and familiarize yourself with the facts about the things that you are talking about. Its not our job for you to spout bullshit, tell you how you are wrong, spout more bullshit, then us tell you how you are wrong in a different way, and that this would all be avoided if you read about the case.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:27 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Yes, it's about McAdams's behavior, but the grad student's assertion that opposition to gay marriage for any reason whatsoever is tantamount to hate speech and thus prohibited is the key to this story - and the thing to which McAdams was (over)reacting."

No, it's not. One can believe that the TA made a mistake in teaching methods — which I'm willing to stipulate, generally — and still find that McAdams' response was part of an unprofessional and unsustainable pattern of harassment that is not covered by academic freedom.

In fact, it's easy to conceive of this from the opposite perspective: I would be disappointed if an orthodox Catholic TA told a student that any discussion of why marriage for same-sex partners was a good thing would be inadmissible in class and to drop if they didn't like it (though I assume that's much more frequent than the situation here), and I can still say that it would be worth removing McAdams if he had been warned several times prior not to name-and-shame a grad student and yet did it anyway.

That the situations are asymmetric — there exists a pretty obvious added harm due to the environment of misogyny that women contend with — only strengthens the argument for dismissing him.
posted by klangklangston at 2:29 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Let me correct a few things about the McAdams case. First, harassment has a legal definition and what McAdams did simply isn't harassment. Criticizing a graduate student teacher's pedagogy isn't harassment, and McAdams isn't accused of harassment by Marquette.

Second, I don't think it's correct that McAdams had been warned against doing this before. It's true that Marquette officials have previously criticized him (once, McAdams says) for naming a student he criticized on his blog. But that's very different from a disciplinary hearing, finding of wrongdoing, and warning against future actions. As far as I know, none of that happened.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 2:32 PM on February 10, 2015


Defining 'professional relationship' to exclude membership of the same faculty seems a little... mustelid.

The rights of academic tenure come with responsibilities, and a very minimal one of those responsibilities is not shitting on those members of one's faculty who lack the same privileges.

Basically: the university needs its TAs to learn and grow in their profession. McAdams ignored his professional duty as part of the faculty to assist this; he also ignored the correct procedure for registering his disagreement.

Exactly: one of a university's core functions is the production of future university teachers. This is what I meant about the generational logjam that has left too many departments with an upper tier of entitled dilettantes (regardless of political leanings) while the teaching load is borne by tenure-track staff, adjuncts and graduates
posted by holgate at 2:34 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


JohnKarlWilson, have you actually read the letter? Yes/no?

Criticizing pedagogy is not why he was fired. And yes, per the letter, he had been warned before.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:37 PM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


First, harassment has a legal definition and what McAdams did simply isn't harassment.

Making things up to incite an audience to outrage is pretty much the definition of harassment.
(2) : to create an unpleasant or hostile situation especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:39 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Let me correct a few things about the McAdams case."

Let me correct one thing for you: Taking all of your information about the situation from McAdams will lead you to an unsupportable conclusion and the appearance of bias.

There exists in this thread ample sources to correct your misconceptions. You may argue with differing accounts, but until then you seem to be purely interested in proving that your incompetence can absolve McAdams' incompetence.
posted by klangklangston at 2:48 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


JohnKarlWilson, have you actually read the letter? Yes/no?
Criticizing pedagogy is not why he was fired. And yes, per the letter, he had been warned before.


Yes, I have read the letter. And the letter says he is being fired for publicly criticizing the pedagogy of a graduate student. That's exactly what this whole dispute is about: was McAdams under a professional obligation to privately express his views about a student's teaching? My answer is no: perhaps he should have taken that approach, but he's not obligated to do it. Considering that the department already knew about the complaint and (quite correctly) took no action against Abbate, McAdams probably felt that a private approach would not work to defend the rights of students who shared his homophobic views.

It's true that the letter says he was warned before. But just because an administrator says something, that doesn't make it true. Partly, this is a question of what a warning that justifies more severe punishment means: does it include any criticism by an administrator, or does it require some kind of formal process, as I claim? Of course, since I don't think he should be punished for his blog, the issue of whether he was previous warned is unimportant. If the administration had warned him not to criticize the administration, his failure to obey would not be grounds for punishment because the command is illegitimate.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 2:48 PM on February 10, 2015


And the letter says he is being fired for publicly criticizing the pedagogy of a graduate student.

So, no, you haven't read the letter. Because that is not what it says.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:50 PM on February 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


This post at The Academe Blog (in response to JohnKarlWilson's own post there) makes some compelling points. It notes, as Wilson does, that Holz's letter tends to downplay the harassment angle in favor of making a case that McAdams failed to "fulfill basic obligations to students":
In one's capacity as a faculty member, in interactions with and about students, one's obligation is to their development even as it is also to one's own speech. When those two obligations (to student development and to exercises of speech) conflict, one faces a heavy burden of responsibility: for careful, substantive negotiation of the competing obligations.

There is no evidence that McAdams performed such negotiation. Indeed, he's publicly pursued the opposite line entirely. On his blog, and as quoted in Inside Higher Ed, he's maintained the position that, as a graduate student in another department, Abbate was entitled to no consideration from him: "We had no teacher/student relationship. The people who should have mentored her (the Philosophy faculty) apparently failed to do so."

This is misleading. One does not contract with a university to foster only the development of students in one's hiring department. As anyone who's taught at a university knows, situations where one bears a broad and general responsibility for student development extend well beyond courses offered in one's own department. From sitting on university committees or judging graduate student awards to conducting disciplinary hearings or discussing the introduction of new programs in fields outside their own, faculty members regularly have opportunity to confront a fact that is always the case: in their dealings with, for, and about students, faculty members have a substantive obligation to foster student development.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:51 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Of course, since I don't think he should be punished for his blog, the issue of whether he was previous warned is unimportant."

Yes, if you beg a question then the actual facts are irrelevant.

And I note that under your formulation, universities would be powerless to stop harassment off campus. You're not alone in this — there are a lot of people who don't take women's complaints of harassment seriously. They're just becoming more of an anachronism every year.
posted by klangklangston at 2:51 PM on February 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


the letter says he is being fired for publicly criticizing the pedagogy of a graduate student.

No, it doesn't. It says he is being fired for that, and also for lying about the facts of the situation, and also for undermining her personal safety. Funny how you missed the "and also" bits.
posted by holgate at 2:52 PM on February 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


That's exactly what this whole dispute is about: was McAdams under a professional obligation to privately express his views about a student's teaching?

No, it's not. I get why you want it to be about that, but you don't always get what you want.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:53 PM on February 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Let me correct one thing for you: Taking all of your information about the situation from McAdams will lead you to an unsupportable conclusion and the appearance of bias.

I have read many, many articles with all sides in this debate, including Marquette's and McAdams'. There are obviously differences of opinion, and different interpretations of the facts, but I don't think that makes anyone here incompetent.

As for my bias, my only bias in this case is that I despite McAdams and his right-wing views. I wrote a book called Patriotic Correctness that includes a chapter on the efforts of right-wingers such as McAdams to have the Vagina Monologues banned at Catholic Colleges such as Marquette. I'm not alone in being biased against McAdams but defending his academic freedom. Daniel Maguire, a leftist professor at Marquette who has been denounced by McAdams, also spoke out against the arbitrary suspension and banishment from campus of McAdams without due process.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 2:58 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's true that the letter says he was warned before. But just because an administrator says something, that doesn't make it true.

So first he wasn't warned, you say...then, wait, he was, but was it really a warning? Since you cannot personally determine what kind of warning it was, it probably wasn't "true."

But we should take your argument here seriously, because.
posted by rtha at 2:59 PM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Academic freedom doesn't include the freedom to publish the names and private information of one's students.

Which he had been warned about before.

Which brings severe harassment. Which he knew.

You keep ignoring this. One has to wonder why.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:01 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


So you wrote a book with the subtitle "Academic Freedom and its Enemies", and you think that makes you biased against McAdams?

Anyway, we all read the letter too, and your reading is exceedingly tendentious.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:01 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


But we should take your argument here seriously, because.

It's about ethics in graduate shaming.
posted by holgate at 3:02 PM on February 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


No, it doesn't. It says he is being fired for that, and also for lying about the facts of the situation, and also for undermining her personal safety. Funny how you missed the "and also" bits.

You are correct: it does make those other arguments (and I didn't say criticizing the student was the only basis for the dismissal). The problem with those other two arguments is that they are worthless. As I've noted, bloggers are not responsible for the threats made by their readers. If someone reads your comment on Metafilter and decides to make a death threat against McAdams, you are not responsible for that.

As for the lying argument, that's particularly terrible. Marquette says that a professor can be fired for failure to meet a standard of total accuracy, which no one can meet. What McAdams wrote was nasty, but not especially inaccurate in describing the facts of the case.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 3:02 PM on February 10, 2015


>"I'm sorry, are you asserting that were Pope Francis to take this grad student's class, and the subject of gay marriage came up, he'd be permitted to state his opinion?"

The Pope has an opinion as to whether gay marriage would be consistent with Rawls' Equal Liberty principle? Fascinating. I didn't even know he was familiar with it.

Otherwise, no, he wouldn't be permitted to state his opinion about it in that class since it would be an irrelevant disruption to the discussion at hand serving little purpose other than to shame other students and which would therefore be in clear violation of the school's harassment policy.

(But honestly, I think the Pope would probably be better behaved in a class than that, so I doubt it would come up.)
posted by kyrademon at 3:03 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not alone in being biased against McAdams but defending his academic freedom.

Tenure does not, fortunately, entirely free one from considerations of collegiality and not being a dick to one's coworkers.
posted by PMdixon at 3:03 PM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


As I've noted, bloggers are not responsible for the threats made by their readers.

You are if you've done it before and it's happened before and you've been told not to do it again.

This has literally nothing to do with academic freedom. But you know that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:05 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


"I have read many, many articles with all sides in this debate, including Marquette's and McAdams'. There are obviously differences of opinion, and different interpretations of the facts, but I don't think that makes anyone here incompetent."

You have repeatedly "summarized" arguments in a way that distorts or misstates their contentions, from arguing that McAdams wasn't warned to the burlesque of asserting that this case means that "professors can be fired if they ever say anything negative publicly about a student enrolled at their institution."

We must also have different interpretations of "competence," but mine includes being able to both read and recall contentions in a reasonable manner. Yours seems to rely on a lower standard.
posted by klangklangston at 3:05 PM on February 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


If someone reads your comment on Metafilter and decides to make a death threat against McAdams, you are not responsible for that.

Which isn't analogous, because I am not a co-worker of McAdams in a superior position to him. I mean, duh.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:06 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


So tenure only means something if you follow the script.

The script being, "Don't sic the internet hate squad on students to harass them off of campus."
posted by dirigibleman at 3:07 PM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


"The problem with those other two arguments is that they are worthless. As I've noted, bloggers are not responsible for the threats made by their readers. If someone reads your comment on Metafilter and decides to make a death threat against McAdams, you are not responsible for that."

They can be if they know or should know that their conduct will lead to harassment. There's no reasonable supposition that my comments will lead to harassment outside of the site — McAdams was warned on multiple occasions and had the effects described to him.

His post practically rises to the level of malicious libel and requires a willful obliviousness to pretend that harassment wasn't a reasonably foreseeable outcome. Again, our conceptions of competence must differ.
posted by klangklangston at 3:09 PM on February 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


The problem with those other two arguments is that they are worthless.

Says you. Still, it gives your tenured colleagues carte blanche to discuss the salacious rumours of what really goes on during your office hours, and how if word got out, you would not only be driven from your institution but it would also be appropriate for you to be fired out of a cannon into a lake.

(All of this is made up, of course, but "academic freedom" is so very important.)
posted by holgate at 3:11 PM on February 10, 2015


Daniel Maguire, a leftist professor at Marquette who has been denounced by McAdams, also spoke out against the arbitrary suspension and banishment from campus of McAdams without due process.

I do love his victim blaming and "well, he always treated me well" cluelessness.

As I've noted, bloggers are not responsible for the threats made by their readers. If someone reads your comment on Metafilter and decides to make a death threat against McAdams, you are not responsible for that.

Once again, the "houcoudaknode" argument is bullshit. If I made a venomous post here directed at an individual and provided contact information for them, and then they were attacked by others, you bet that I would be responsible, even if I never actively espoused an attack.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:12 PM on February 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Academic freedom is very important and I will defend it rigorously. Which is I why I am for McAdams' firing.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:13 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


I guess I can't begrudge someone affiliated with the AAUP for focusing primarily on the professor's academic freedom, but it would be nice to at least have some acknowledgement that the students' academic freedom is relevant as well, and that McAdams' actions were a direct threat not only to Abbate's academic freedom, but that of anyone else who had to interact with McAdams in the future.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:18 PM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


the arbitrary suspension and banishment from campus of McAdams without due process.

From the Dean's letter: "In accord with Section 307.03, we are commencing as of this date the procedures for revoking your tenure and dismissing you from the faculty. Please refer to Chapter 307 of the Faculty Statutes for the procedures that will ensue. If you file a timely objection, we will of course provide the conferences outlined in Section 307.05 and thereafter, if necessary, proceed with the Faculty Hearing Committee process under Section 307.07. You of course will be provided all the process to which you are due. We likewise expect you to comply with these procedures, including but not limited to Section 307.08."


Sounds like due process to me.
posted by JackFlash at 3:28 PM on February 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


It disturbs me that the student was failing the course at the time of the incident as a result of not doing any of the coursework, because that makes it look like he wasn't taking the course out of interest or for the credits, but only to get the goods on this teacher.

That -- together with the way the student made a recording and brought it to MacAdams, then MacAdams gave the teacher 9 hours on a Sunday to give him her side of the story before rushing to publish his blog post that Sunday night -- suggests MacAdams may have been operating a kind of fifth column within Marquette which was designed to expose MacAdams' ideological opponents at Marquette to attacks from the right-wing bloviosphere.
posted by jamjam at 3:30 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Although universities are leaky sieves in this matter, student privacy is considered to be something of a legal and ethical obligation.

And having been a GA, students sometimes screw up when caught flat-footed in an informal out-of-class discussion. For that matter, tenured professors with decades of experience screw up under the same conditions. Which is why we tend to privilege material that's been carefully edited and vetted through a peer-review process. I can't help but find "gotcha" culture based on unscripted discussion and ephemera to be deeply unprofessional (whether that ephemera is twitter, or an after-class discussion).
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:31 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


JohnKarlWilson: First, harassment has a legal definition and what McAdams did simply isn't harassment.

This might be overly pedantic but it hits a peeve of mine I consider very important, one with an example already in this thread: the fact that jeather's philosophers had spoken at length about the meaning of the word "if" doesn't give them a monopoly on all uses of the word everywhere.

Likewise, that the law contains the word "harassment" doesn't mean we all have to cross out that entry in our dictionaries and write in "see a legal dictionary which owns the word now". People can absolutely talk about whether McAdams' behavior was harassment sensu homo.
posted by traveler_ at 3:38 PM on February 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Personally, I'm excited for the Vatican's new policy of having the Pope attend classes (maybe even under a secret identity!) at Catholic universities. I think it's a great way for him to get his message out, which, to be fair, is kind of a challenge for him. Gay marriage in a philosophy class is a great start, but why stop there? In math classes, the Pope needs to speak his mind about abortion. In studio art classes, he needs to speak about the Church's stance on climate change.

Anything less would be clear and blatant censorship.
posted by overglow at 3:39 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


> I'm not alone in being biased against McAdams but defending his academic freedom

But that's not what you're doing. You are defending his conduct, which his employer says repeatedly violated their rules and policies, which he was familiar with. He was warned/counseled/informed that he should not keep doing the thing they had told him not to do. He did it anyway.

Are you saying that his conduct cannot count? Only his opinions?

> As for the lying argument, that's particularly terrible. Marquette says that a professor can be fired for failure to meet a standard of total accuracy,

Did I miss where it says "total"? I see this:
Tenure and academic freedom carry not only great privileges but also vital responsibilities and obligations. In order to endure, a scholar-teacher's academic freedom must be grounded on competence and integrity, including accuracy "at all times,"
Marquette says the inaccuracy of his post is one of the reasons they're firing him. Don't act like it's the only one, and don't represent the standard.
posted by rtha at 3:40 PM on February 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I am a member of the AAUP, and I completely support McAdams firing. Although this is an extreme example, it is not atypical of the mistreatment of grad students in many departments and many entire universities, especially, to pull one example out of thin air, female grad students in philosophy programs. We were all grad students once, and we ought to know better.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:50 PM on February 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


The last two years has seen a big increase in the consequences of being doxed including threats, harassment, and swatting. The legal definition of sexual harassment includes creating or contributing to a hostile environment, and we're now in a period where doxing can meet the reasonable person standard for that.

However, the university doesn't need to stick just to the standard of legally actionable harassment, they can set a professional standard that's stricter.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:57 PM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Personally, I'm excited for the Vatican's new policy of having the Pope attend classes (maybe even under a secret identity!) at Catholic universities.

I do hope he takes the big hat off, though, so other students can see the board.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:16 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


JohnKarlWilson: As I've noted, bloggers are not responsible for the threats made by their readers.

You have setup a strawman here. The university is holding McAdams to account for his blog post only, not the actions of his readers. The university holds their professors who speak in a public forum accountable:

As a man/woman of learning and an educational officer, he/she should remember that the public may judge his/her profession and institution by his/her utterances.Hence, he/she should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint[and] should show respect for the opinions of others ....

There is no analysis of what McAdams' blog post that does not read as violating that policy. The university lays that out clearly in the letter (linked by feckless fear mongering). This is simply "employee violates codes of conduct, nothing to see here". You can disagree with their code of conduct, that it shouldn't cover "public utterances", but that is different than saying this is about "academic freedom".

I understand you want to die on the hill of academic freedom here, but I think kewb has a very informative comment on why your position does the exact opposite. TLDR; if you want academic freedom and open discussion, you first need a safe space in order to have that. All participants must feel safe to express their controversial ideas without fear of doxxing and (the predictable) harassment.
posted by herda05 at 4:57 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


If the Pope registers for any of my classes, I'm giving up and just assigning group discussions for the rest of the semester.

Although he'll be easy to grade, given the whole "infallible" thing.
posted by bibliowench at 5:27 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I bet if you copied off of his test he wouldn't even say shit.
posted by ODiV at 5:35 PM on February 10, 2015


First: I'm sympathetic to those who are happy McAdams was fired. Even if you subtract out the student:professor dynamics, using the TA to personify the faults of a political stance you disagree with and identifying that TA by name publicly is a careless abuse of a tremendous power differential.

To offer an analogy: In the medical community, attending physicians are allowed to do pretty much anything to resident house staff. Attending docs can make the house staff do all their work, they can chew out residents in front of families, you can subtlety demean residents for no reason in front of nurses and purposefully call a resident the wrong name for an entire year, and expect the resident to just laugh it off. Depending on the chair of your department, you may have absolutely no recourse at all. But I can't imagine any doctor calling out a training physician by name in a public forum. I can't imagine any profession where that type of behavior would be okay.

Second: David Guth and Steven Salaita made comments that, while juvenile, inappropriate and inflammatory, did not harm anyone and explicitly reflected personal emotional reactions to violent tragedy. I'm not familiar with academic standards, but if I were to offer an uneducated opinion (the internet's favorite type of opinion) I would say it seems unjust that their comments hurt them professionally. But when I'm being honest with myself, I have to wonder how much my response is influenced by my own antipathy for the NRA and sympathy for the palestinian people. Free speech in academia is such a thorny issue, I don't envy any board of trustee in the position of being pressured to fire an outspoken academic.
posted by midmarch snowman at 6:23 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


It disturbs me that the student was failing the course at the time of the incident as a result of not doing any of the coursework, because that makes it look like he wasn't taking the course out of interest or for the credits, but only to get the goods on this teacher.

Well, that's always possible but students failing a course because they didn't do any of the work, for lots of good-but-sad and bad reasons, is really common.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:26 PM on February 10, 2015


Steven Salaita made comments that, while juvenile, inappropriate and inflammatory, did not harm anyone and explicitly reflected personal emotional reactions to violent tragedy.

What I do wonder is -- if Salaita had gotten to Illinois without incident, but then sometime in his first year called out, by name, a Jewish TA he felt was creating a hostile classroom environment for a Palestinian undergrad at UIUC, and if the TA were then subjected to death threats and harassment, would people see the case for firing Salaita as clear-cut?

(I get that Salaita did not actually do this or anything like this. I'm just trying to understand what my own intuitions are about variations on the real situation.)
posted by escabeche at 6:40 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


If he did it repeatedly, was warned, and still did it, then yeah.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:49 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, without question.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:52 PM on February 10, 2015


Wow. I've just recently been reading a lot of MSPB civil service case decisions (and their reviews and appeals) lately. That proposed removal letter seems pretty fucking airtight to me. About the only thing missing is an explicit discussion of how his past work record and performance were considered when deciding on removal. Someone in HR is really good at this.

Now I guess they can add a "notoriety of the offense" paragraph about the public interest generated when they nail shut the coffin lid.
posted by ctmf at 6:56 PM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah. And I don't think it even needs qualifying with "repeatedly", though one would expect an institution to issue the equivalent of a yellow card first. If you have concerns, you raise them internally, because it's not as if modern universities lack frameworks to do so, and you don't use the privileges granted you to kick down.
posted by holgate at 6:58 PM on February 10, 2015


Also, lets be honest. If McAdams was a scholar of note he would have a lot more protection here and would very likely not have been fired.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:10 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Honesty cuts both ways. If McAdams were a scholar of note he would not be spending time ruining the career of a TA.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:31 PM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Arguably if he had not spent time bullying TAs he could have focused on his scholarship.
posted by Westringia F. at 7:49 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


What if another professor named the undergrad who tried to get the TA in trouble or worse by secretly taping the conversation and sharing it with McAdams, and publicly demanded he be expelled?
posted by escabeche at 7:50 PM on February 10, 2015


plastic_animals beat me to it, though there are more familiar tales of "scholars of note" and inappropriate relationships that take place within the same unbalanced framework of power and authority, and are often tolerated longer than they ought to be, and dealt with by nudging the scholar-of-note off to another institution.

What if another professor named the undergrad who tried to get the TA in trouble or worse by secretly taping the conversation and sharing it with McAdams, and publicly demanded he be expelled?

Same. He might be a little shit, and he may choose to reveal himself to Fox News or wherever, but Marquette has handled this in-house; tenured faculty don't have the right to expose him, put him in the naughty corner, or ask him to leave his cellphone switched off at the front of class.
posted by holgate at 7:58 PM on February 10, 2015


Two new open tenure lines?

The issue is bullying a junior member of the academy instead of mentoring them or engaging thoughtfully with their ideas (without ad-hominem attacks). I'm not quite sure where you're going with the hypotheticals, escabeche, but it seems to me the problem is invariant to the specific beliefs/characteristics of the student.
posted by Westringia F. at 8:01 PM on February 10, 2015


... well, not quite invariant: I'd argue that the McAdams case is worse because of its attendant sexism, and that it impinges on the academy's (& esp philosophy's) ongoing struggle to recruit & retain women. But even without those 2nd order effects, it would still be a problematic abuse of power that squashes, rather than fosters, intellectual inquiry.
posted by Westringia F. at 8:19 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not really going anywhere with the hypotheticals, I'm just trying to understand my own instinctive responses.
posted by escabeche at 8:36 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sorry -- that came off as more combative than I intended. I hear you on the exploration. I was trying to ask whether I was missing/oversimplifying something.
posted by Westringia F. at 8:46 PM on February 10, 2015


If McAdams was a scholar of note he would have a lot more protection here and would very likely not have been fired.

Not necessarily: compare, e.g., Jim Watson.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:49 PM on February 10, 2015


And since we've mentioned Salaita... the most glaring difference, to me, is not in what McAdams & Salaita did (though I would argue that they are different), but in the respective administrations' responses. Dean Holz laid out an extremely detailed & precise explanation of what was problematic with McAdam's behavior. In contrast, Chancellor Wise made ambiguous comments about expectations of "civility" in regard to the Salaita case -- statements which had an understandably chilling effect on faculty who would be held to that amorphous standard. I think it's much harder to make the case that Marquette's actions against McAdams will have a general stifling effect.
posted by Westringia F. at 9:17 PM on February 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


"Although he'll be easy to grade, given the whole "infallible" thing."

Only on matters of doctrine! For Intro to Ethics he's just a schmoe with a tiny umbrella.
posted by klangklangston at 9:58 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


James Watson had a pretty good run and didn't dispute the decision that he ought to step down as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. I don't think he left or was forced to leave a tenured position. A better example might be Richard Sander, previously. He's best known for his "controversial" views on affirmative action, and UCLA reportedly created a separate Property 1L class so that they wouldn't have to place Black students in class.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:07 PM on February 10, 2015


Fair point about Jim Watson, JiA. I had also been thinking of Arnold Levine, but looking into it, he also resigned only his public-facing position and kept his lab open. Hmm.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:59 PM on February 10, 2015


Maybe a Nader-ite derail isn't what this thread needs.

That wasn't a derail, that was an example of the hypocrisy with which certain nominally liberal commenters engaged with this subject.

And it's been ...interesting to see how this asshole's firing has been spun in liberal academic circles as a tenure/freedom of speach matter, from Friedersdorf's original article to Lemieux's commenting on it.

Tenure mostly is a guild privilege for a diminishing set of older, whiter, male skewing group of people and the first instinct of those who are profiting from it or stand a chance of doing so is to defend it as such, rather than look at the merits of the firing objectivily.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:25 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hi! I currently profit from tenure and have said, right here, that firing McAdams is fine and dandy. I can count at least six other people who profit from it or stand to do so who've argued for McAdams being fired (or at least opposed arguments against it) right here in this very thread.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:13 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


I don't have any desire to demonize those with tenure, and every tenured professor I know is horrified by the casualization of academic labor. But I do think that trend needs to be part of this discussion. If academic freedom for those with tenure includes the freedom to harass and terrorize members of the academic underclass, and if members of the teaching underclass have no job security, no protection for their academic freedom, and very few tools to fight back, then "academic freedom" becomes another factor that's marginalizing and harming non-tenured instructors and TAs. And that's sort of depressing as hell. It's especially depressing when, as in this case, tenured professors are using their vaunted academic freedom to target women, who are already overrepresented in the ranks of non-tenured teaching staff and underrepresented in the ranks of those who have the protections of tenure. This behavior perpetuates that inequality by placing additional burdens on women, while men don't have to contend with online rape threats and can concentrate on activities that will actually further their careers.

I guess I'm a little curious about whether any of that bothers JohnKarlWilson and, if so, if thinks that there's anything to be done about it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:42 AM on February 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


I've never gotten the impression that tenure was carte blanche freedom of speech without consequences. My understanding is that the intent is to provide the freedom to champion heterodox ideas and theories within the ground rules of academic debate (such as they are), not a license for public personal attacks, especially not against students who are expected to be honing their ideas and craft. McAdams's criticisms of gay rights and pedagogy are protected, his choice to make a graduate student the figurehead for his attack is not.

(Snark: "Actually, it's all about ethics in teaching ethics.")
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:01 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


And it's been ...interesting to see how this asshole's firing has been spun in liberal academic circles as a tenure/freedom of speach matter, from Friedersdorf's original article to Lemieux's commenting on it.

Actually, Lemieux's only post on this was three days prior to the publication of Friedersdorf's piece. I also find any connection between his disdain toward Nader voters and his (IMHO very wrong) position on this incident tenuous at best. There's a big difference between making a simple game theory calculation about a spoiler effect in a first-past-the-post election versus doxxing a student and disclaiming any responsibility for what happens to them.

I do agree that defending tenure based on self-interest is a big part of why he opposes Marquette's action, and as a strong supporter of organized labor, I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. AAUP sort of straddles the line between professional association and labor union, and in an era where university administrators are routinely meddling with things best left to professors, I believe professors ought to have the ability to push back strongly.

I think Lemieux is very wrong on the merits of this particular issue, but I understand where the urge to defend tenure comes from -- I just happen to think defending an asshole like McAdams will do more harm than good, not just to students, but to other professors who need protection in the future. Dying on the hill of McAdams' right to berate his students means you lose moral high ground for the next fight.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:30 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just to note:

Keep in mind McAdams (who, after 35 years, had yet to attain full professorship, and also hasn't published anything of note in about that time)

This isn't quite true. His series of articles with John Johannes on various aspects of incumbency were important, with one being cited 212 times (which in political science is a lot, but not A LOT). Obviously it's a decent bet that Johannes was primary on those, of course, and that stream ended in the late 80s.

But we might as well pillory the man for his actual bad qualities or behavior, y'know?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:15 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dying on the hill of McAdams' right to berate his students means you lose moral high ground for the next fight.

Not only that, it's burning bridges with other groups who may now question the validity of academic freedom in the AAUP construction. It's similar to the issue of abuse of anonymity threatening the legitimacy of anonymity - if you defend the use of a principle to shield abuse, then you should not be surprised when other people consider that principle to no longer be legitimate.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:48 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hi! I currently profit from tenure and have said, right here, that firing McAdams is fine and dandy.

However belated: congratulations!
posted by jamjam at 12:03 PM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]




That paper is remarkably unconvincing at first skim. The excerpts say extraordinarily little, and the argument he puts forward (page 28 of the PDF, 438 in the original text) is a well-worn one:
...a liberal democratic society needs families headed by two married parents who are the biological mother and father of the children, because such families are (a) intrinsically generative and (b) optimal for childrearing. In other words, sex between men and women makes babies; society needs sufficient
babies; babies need moms and dads.108 Every family arrangement in which children are raised need not and cannot conform to this pattern, but the state has a legitimate interest in encouraging people to form families that do so, which the state can accomplish by enshrining this conception of marriage in the law, as conferring unique social status, and promoting it with material benefits.
I mean, come on. That's weak.

O'Brien goes on to make arguments that children of same-sex marriages have not been proven not to be worse off than children of opposite-sex marriages. Again, this is unconvincing for multiple reasons.

The paper's weakness is all the more reason to demolish such an argument in open philosophical discussion. Not everyone has walked through why these arguments are weak.
posted by daveliepmann at 12:07 AM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


bloggers are not responsible for the threats made by their readers

This is such bullshit. This is exactly the problem we are seeing over and over again now.

If you call the SWAT team on your enemy's house, did you cause the ensuing terror and (god forbid) shootings? You sure as hell did, and you WILL be legally held accountable for this.

If you provided the address to the crazy man who called the cops? Legally, you get off scot-free . . . and let me be the first to say that THIS IS BULLSHIT.




I am all for academic freedom, and I think that professors should have every right to say unpopular things and research uncomfortable topics without fear of reprisals. This ISN'T THAT. McAdams did not voice an unpopular opinion. He identified a woman whose teaching method and opinions he disagreed with, and instead of speaking with her, the student, his administration, or literally anyone who could have addressed this problem for him, instead told the ENTIRE WORLD where they could find her. Creating an atmosphere where you are LITERALLY GIVING CRAZY PEOPLE the tools they need to cause chaos is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

He didn't want to change the way this situation had been handled. He didn't want to stand up for his personal beliefs. He didn't even want to bitch about work policies! Because he could have done all of that without mentioning the instructor in question. He didn't WANT to do any of that. He wanted to cause chaos.

So, no, I'm not going to bemoan the fact that Marquette has policies put in place to safeguard an atmosphere where no one has to worry about HAVING CRAZY PEOPLE STALKING THEM.

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:23 AM on February 12, 2015 [15 favorites]




... Every family arrangement in which children are raised need not and cannot conform to this pattern, but the state has a legitimate interest in encouraging people to form families that do so,... [emphasis mine]
It is stunning how people who are usually hyper-paranoid about the government intruding on people's personal choices all of a sudden want such strong intervention. It's probably not the graduate student's job, but someone should point out that this stance should lead to supporting Obamacare, Bloomberg's large soda ban, national curriculum standards, etc., etc.
In other words, sex between men and women makes babies; society needs sufficient babies; babies need moms and dads. [emphasis mine]
And that's just weird. Lack of babies is not our current problem. This sounds like something out of the 18th century, where we 'needed' a large healthy population to fill the army for when we go to war against France.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:43 AM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


that's just weird. Lack of babies is not our current problem.

Even if you grant the very broad premise -- society as a whole has a broad interest in its perpetuation by the creation of new members of society who share its basic values -- that's a leap (and a reach) from the biology of babymaking. In philosophical terms, it simply doesn't follow; in historical terms, it's fairly clear that the dual-parent model is a modern creation tied more to external influences (such as mobility and building codes) than somehow optimised over time.

O'Brien is begging the question, and like a crack in a wall, once you notice it, you can't stop staring.
posted by holgate at 11:01 AM on February 12, 2015


society needs sufficient babies

And those babies need to be raised. We can provide more stable homes by adoption. Part of encouraging adoption is making it easier for people to get married. Some homosexual couples already want to adopt and can't because they are not married. So expanding marriage and the social, legal and fiscal benefits provided is not just good, but necessary.

Oh, how did I get here, I accepted his premises and everything!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:17 AM on February 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think what that paper actually shows is that Republicans make the Rawlsian idea of public reason unworkable. If one discussant chooses to treat everything as controversial, you're pretty stuck.
posted by PMdixon at 11:53 AM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


That was actually one of the reasons I enjoyed Chantal Mouffe so much in my Theory of Democracy class — her argument was that to solve that problem, you need "zones of contention," where ideas like e.g. fascism or theocracy can be explored in ways that don't necessarily compromise the integrity of public institutions.

Really, this is reminding me that I should read more Rawls (since I have only coursepack familiarity) but as someone who's no longer in school, it's hard to justify the investment outside of the general obligation I feel to be a good informed citizen.
posted by klangklangston at 12:00 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rawls rules.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:52 PM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cheryl Abbate: Gender Based Violence, Responsibility, and John McAdams

Well worth the read, though I must shower now. People!
posted by mrgrimm at 1:56 PM on February 21, 2015


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