In Wisconsin, a Win for Academic Freedom
David French at National Review reports on a decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court:
In a stinging 63-page ruling, the court held that Marquette University violated its own faculty handbook when it effectively terminated professor John McAdams for writing a blog post criticizing a graduate student instructor’s attempts to silence debate about gay rights in her ethics class.
It appears that a couple of clauses of the handbook were particularly important:
In no case, however, shall discretionary cause be interpreted so as to impair the full and free enjoyment of legitimate personal or academic freedoms of thought, doctrine, discourse, association, advocacy, or action.
Dismissal will not be used to restrain faculty members in their exercise of academic freedom or other rights guaranteed them by the United States Constitution.
A few aspects of this catch my attention as pertinent to our concerns about academic freedom. First, McAdams expressed a controversial position. Second, this victory is of more than local importance. Not only does it set precedent in Wisconsin, but it is likely to be considered when similar situations come up elsewhere in the country. Third, Marquette is a private institution. Shouldn’t public institutions be held to an even higher standard?
I hope that these attitudes will extend to those who hold other kinds of controversial ideas, such as scientific skepticism about evolutionary theory.
Photo: Johnston Hall, Marquette University, by SCUMATT at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons.