In a win for free speech, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ruled that Marquette University professor John McAdams suspension from the Jesuit campus four years ago violated his academic freedom.
At the beginning of May, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court ruled against former Marquette University professor John McAdams in an academic freedom case, stating the school’s suspension of McAdams was correct.
John McAdams was suspended in November 2014 after he penned a blog post criticizing another faculty members actions regarding free speech. The faculty member suppressed a student from speaking in a “Theory of Ethics” class on opposing same-sex marriage, which McAdams addressed in his blog post.
The administrators at Marquette immediately called for McAdams to delete his criticism of the teaching assistant, Cheryl Abbate, threatening to take away his tenured position if he did not.
He was also asked to provide an apology, but argued that the apology was “reminiscent of the Inquisition, in which victims who ‘confessed’ they had been consorting with Satan and spreading heresy would be spared execution.”
Professor McAdams did not apologize and was immediately terminated by the University. In response, he filed a lawsuit against the University due to his employment contract being broken unfairly.
In May, the Milwaukee County Circuit Court ruled against McAdams, which lead to McAdams rightfully filing an appeal.
This past week the case was brought before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in which they overturned the lower courts decision and ruled in favor of Professor McAdams.
The justices ruled 4-2 in favor of McAdams, stating that Marquette unfairly violated McAdam’s freedom as a professor after they fired him without any form of compensation.
In their decision, the justices overturned the appellate court ruling and ordered Marquette University to reinstate McAdams as a professor as well as compensating him for damages as well as back pay.
“The undisputed facts show that the university breached its contract with Dr. McAdams when it suspended him for engaging in activity protected by the contract’s guarantee of academic freedom,” concluded the decision which was written by Justice Daniel Kelly.
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who wrote for the dissent, argued that McAdams unfairly publicised his blog against Abbate to local and national news outlets which made the University look bad.
“In determining who may teach at its university, Marquette has academic freedom to uphold its values and principles,” she wrote. “It has academic freedom to provide an educational environment that is consistent with its mission as a university.”
After a four year battle, McAdams finally feels a “combination of elation and relief,” now that he is free to return to teaching.
“I’ll be back to be an ordinary professor, which is where I want to be,” he said.