Prof sues uni which fired him for defending free speech

A political science professor in the United States has filed a lawsuit against his university, after it suspended him for supporting a student’s right to free speech.

Associate Professor John McAdams was suspended in 2014. He criticised a teaching assistant who forbade a student from discussing his opinion on same-sex marriage in class.

Last month, Marquette University announced that McAdams would remain suspended until later this year and demanded an apology in order for him to get his job back.


Instead, the Professor is taking legal action against Marquette, with the support of Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL).

He argues that the university breached his employment contract by wrongfully suspending him from his post.

A statement by WILL last week read: “Marquette University guarantees its tenured faculty academic freedoms, including the right to free speech”.

But it noted that this right was “violated” when the Professor was suspended for defending a student.

Free speech

President of WILL, Rick Esenberg, said: “For blogging and defending an undergraduate student, Professor McAdams is being suspended.

“But it is worse than that. He is being told that he will be fired unless, in the manner of a Soviet show trial, he confesses guilt and admits that his conduct was ‘reckless’.”

“The university has said that it welcomes debate and self-criticism. That is precisely what Professor McAdams was engaged in”, he continued.

Offensive speech

McAdams said: “I think the most overlooked aspect of this matter is that no one in the Marquette Administration has taken seriously the complaint of the undergraduate student who was silenced by the Instructor.

“I’m saddened that Marquette’s treatment of the undergraduate student at the center of this controversy failed to adhere to its guiding principle of Cura Personalis”, i.e. respect for the student as a person.

Prof McAdams objected after reports that a teaching assistant had told one of her students that opposition to gay marriage is ‘offensive speech’.


The assistant suggested the student drop out of the course, stating that “homophobic comments” would not be tolerated.

In a blog post, the professor, who had been at the university for 37 years, said the assistant was “using a tactic typical among liberals now”.

He said: “Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”

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