No Free Speech at Marquette

Marquette University, the Jesuit school in Milwaukee, has shot itself in the foot again. Weeks ago in a “Theory of Ethics” class, philosophy instructor Cheryl Abbate listed several possible topics of discussion, but said one of them –gay marriage—could not be addressed because any opposition argument would offend homosexual students, and besides society has already agreed that gays can marry. This is a strong pattern for the campus left: topics they want to talk about (e.g., the Keystone pipeline, abolishing fraternities) are discussed endlessly, even in classes where the topics have little or no relevance. But topics they don’twant discussed are banned as “already settled” or as harassment.

Did Marquette overrule Abbate and say that gay marriage can certainly be discussed in class?  Or that Catholic doctrine cannot be off limits at a Catholic university? Well, no. Like so many other universities, Marquette passed on the free speech issue and went after a lone professor—John McAdams–who had criticized Marquette’s woeful reaction to Abbate in his blog, “Marquette Warrior.” The next step was very predictable: Marquette suspended McAdams, said he is under investigation and banned him from the campus, without listing any charges against him. Presumably the unannouced charge is harassment, since the letter from Dean Richard Holz to McAdams ended with a sentence saying “I am enclosing with this letter Marquette’s harassment policy….:” McAdams then wrote: “The fact that Holz sends the ‘harassment policy’ suggests that somebody thinks that merely blogging about questionable conduct by a Philosophy instructor constitutes ’harassment.’” He adds that Marquette “has again shown itself to be timid, overtly bureaucratic and lacking any commitment either to its Catholic mission or free expression.” Yes, it has.

John Leo

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

10 thoughts on “No Free Speech at Marquette

  1. The moral weakness within the hierarchy and priesthood is THE reason I left the catholic church. Not just me, also my mother, 2 brothers, 2 sisters and 27 of our children. Not a church of moral fortitude as is evident by this article.

  2. You guys disappoint me. You should be on God’s side instead of the devils side. Also, don’t you know that our Constitution supports freedom of speech, which obviously your university does not. You have been seduced by far left philosophy which is against God and Country.

  3. Thank you for making a broader audience aware of this incredible set of “events”. Not being the kind of “questioning Catholic” they seem to wish to serve, I plan to be very selective as to which receive any financial support directly, from my parish or our diocese. Perhaps they can find more palatable supporters on the far Left. Perhaps the LGBT advocate community they favor will enroll and/or donate enough to keep them afloat.

  4. “philosophy instructor Cheryl Abbate listed several possible topics of discussion, but said one of them –gay marriage—could not be addressed because any opposition argument would offend homosexual students, and besides society has already agreed that gays can marry.”
    Let’s play find and replace.
    In 1860, “philosophy instructor Cheryl Abbate listed several possible topics of discussion, but said one of them –slavery—could not be addressed because any opposition argument would offend slave owning students, and besides the Supreme Court has already stated in the Dred Scott case that giving African Americans standing in American courts, would result in giving ” to persons of the negro race, …the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, …to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased …the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went” which of course would be disastrous.
    There’s double irony here — flipping the argument around and also the substance of the decision in Scott vs Sanford was predicated in part on preventing political speech and freedom of association

  5. So Catholic doctrine is now excluded from discussion at a Catholic university. And instructors who dare to say so are rendered persona non grata for it.

    I sense that the typical American “Catholic institution” is no longer hospitable toward Catholics or Catholicism…and I wonder to what extent that effect will overtake Catholic parishes nationwide.

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