The basics of the case are these:
McAdams’ November 9, 2014 post at his Marquette Warrior blog condemned philosophy instructor Cheryl Abbate for announcing to her Theory of Ethics class that “everybody agrees” on “gay rights,” and later telling a student who believed gay marriage deserved classroom discussion that “[i]n this class, homophobic comments, racist comments, will not be tolerated.”
McAdams’ blog post identified Abbate by name and linked to her webpage. Later, after national outlets picked up the story, Abbate began receiving emails and letters, some positive, some negative, and a few vile and threatening. Marquette held McAdams responsible for the third-party threats and suspended him.A faculty hearing ensued. The resulting recommendation to Marquette's president was a suspension for one or two semesters for McAdams. McAdams, in turn, sued for breach of contract.
In Cleveland's post from January about the matter, she outlined the ten relevant points about it:
- Marquette promised not to fire faculty members for free speech
- McAdams' blog post advocated academic freedom
- McAdams did not 'harass,' 'attack' or 'shame' Abbate
- McAdams violated no university rule by blogging about the incident
- There was name calling, but not from McAdams ( A few days after the blog post, Abbate called McAdams a “bigoted moron,” an “uncritical, creepy homophobic person with bad argumentation skills,” “a flaming bigot, sexist and homophobic idiot,” and for good measure added he had an “ugly face.”The chair of Marquette’s Philosophy Department also had some choice words, referring to McAdams in writing as a “right wing lunatic.” The chair also called the student who had complained about Abbate—identified in court proceedings only as JD—a “insulin [sic] little twerp,” a “little twit,” and a “jackass.”)
- It is disingenuous to call Abbate a student (Yes, she was a graduate student, but like many graduate students she also teaches at the university.
- Abbate attempted to get McAdams fired
- McAdams’ right to “full and free enjoyment” of academic freedom cannot be disregarded because third parties heckled Abbate.
- Abbate's transfer wasn't over this incident
- Marquette's hearing committee was a sham
The matter made its way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which found in McAdams' favor.
Interestingly, as Cleveland points out, even the dissent makes one of the most obvious points about the whole thing: by making a certain kind of choice regarding its institutional academic freedom - namely, jettisoning adherence to Catholic doctrine in its hiring decisions - it forfeited the right to punish McAdams on grounds of violating any kind of speech code:
Further up in her most recent essay, she makes another large point that applies to so much coming across our radar screen today: Our culture is so toxic that an avalanche of vitriol out of anyone's control is likely to be catalyzed by anyone who speaks up for God's natural order.