Marquette University has decided to revoke a professor’s tenure and fire him because of…a blog post. Yep, you heard that right: a blog post.The controversy began when John McAdams criticized a teaching assistant at the University on his blog, Marquette Warrior, for the way she handled a classroom discussion about gay marriage. A student complained that the assistant, Cheryl Abbate, shut down discussion over gay marriage when he tried to speak in opposition to it during a class session. McAdams’s blog post criticizing Abbate caused a stir on campus, which then went national when the University suspended McAdams. (Here is the American Association of University Professors opposing the suspension).This kind of intolerance for speech that fails to hew to liberal orthodoxy is becoming increasingly common in higher education—and it’s giving it a bad name. Here’s how WRM put it recently, when discussing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s higher education reforms:
A major restructuring of the university system is likely to come, with the weak spot being the publicly funded university system. Politics will have something to do with it; studies show that university faculty are one of the most Democratic groups in the country. With a large majority of states now under GOP control both in the legislatures and the governors’ mansions, it’s going to be hard for tenured faculty and high-level administrators to get a sympathetic hearing for their pleas.What we are likely to see is a steady and long-term pressure against the ‘research university’ model outside of the natural sciences, with politicians (often supported by voters who want cheaper tuition) pushing to increase teaching loads. Teachers would be paid to teach, not to write critical gender study analyses for peer reviewed publications of little interest to the average voter.
The future of the academy is already precarious. The least administrators could do is stop making it so easy for people to wave goodbye.