Wisconsin Supreme Court sides with conservative professor disciplined about blog

The Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with a former political science professor, John McAdams, who sued Marquette University in 2016 for the violation of his freedom of expression.


A conservative political science professor who sued Marquette University after the Milwaukee Jesuit school suspended him for blogging about gay marriage won his case Friday in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The high court ruled that Marquette University needs to immediately restore former political science professor John McAdams, and find that the college failed to give him the academic freedom he is guaranteed under his contract.

The court’s conservative majority opinion, the private university-faculty panel exhibited “unacceptable bias” when it suspended him and ultimately stopped paying him. The liberal judges disagreed, saying the minority is of the opinion that academic freedom “does not protect McAdams of discipline.”

The university drew McAdams was not suspended for the content of his in 2014 post, but because he has the name of an instructor and linked to her personal website. That teacher, a student, received a barrage of hateful messages and threats after he posted her information.

“A tenured faculty member a graduate student, name and link to her contact details on the Internet, so that people can go after her,” said Marquette attorney Ralph Weber. “That’s not academic freedom – it is bullying”

The decision was eagerly awaited by conservatives, many of whom see the universities as liberal hotbeds. It was also closely followed by private companies, which exercises control over the employee’s discipline.

In the 2014 post that got McAdams in the problems, he discussed an incident with a conservative student who included a graduate student instructor of philosophy. The instructor reportedly shut down of oppositional speech against gay marriage and suggested the student drop the class, because of his views.

McAdams, who called himself a “whistleblower” in Marquette, said that it was just another example of the liberals trying to silence the people they disagree with and then he is linked to the instructor’s personal website. They got so many threats that the university decided to post a guard outside her classroom. The student eventually moved to another university, where they had to repeat three semesters and revise her phd dissertation.

“He Had written the exact same blog post and not the pupil-teacher name and contact information he would not have addressed,” Weber argued. “He is disciplined for his behavior, not every point of view.”

But McAdams’ lawyer, Rick Esenberg, said that everything he did was a link to publicly available information.

McAdams said he will continue to write blogs that expose misconduct at school, but will only do this “in extreme cases… when I find the source of the good.”

McAdams warned that he “might embarrass people by revealing the things they don’t want to see.’

Marquette initially told McAdams he could return to work after his suspension he wrote a letter to the instructor apologizing for his behavior. But he refused to do that.

The college will not appeal against the decision and will reinstate him as a professor and pay him for the years he was unemployed.

University officials pointed out that a panel and a circuit judge agreed with them — but they said that they would respect the high court ruling.

“For us, it was always clear that the professor’s behavior crossed the line. This was confirmed by seven members of the professor, colleagues, and by a Wisconsin Circuit Court judge,” the university said in a statement. “However, in light of today’s decision, Marquette will work with the faculty to re-examine the policy, with the goal of providing every assurance possible that this never happens again.”

McAdams said that he is eager to return to the classroom.

The student’s instructor, who is not named because of the threats she received, could not be reached for comment.

Caleb Parke is an associate editor for You can follow him on Twitter @calebparke

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