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AAUP files brief in support of Marquette professor John McAdams

The American Association of University Professors has filed an amicus brief on behalf of Marquette University professor John McAdams in his case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The brief bolsters McAdams’s case as he seeks to vindicate his due process and academic freedom rights.

This legal saga started in November 2014 when McAdams criticized a graduate student instructor on his blog for directing a student to refrain from opposing same-sex marriage in her classroom. After the story became national news, Marquette suspended McAdams and required him to recant the blog and apologize in order to be reinstated.

This prompted McAdams to sue Marquette for violating his due process and academic freedom rights. After losing in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted his petition to bypass the intermediate appellate court and hear his case. Now the highest state court in Wisconsin will rule on his appeal.

This is where the AAUP weighs in. Its brief argues that the lower court distorted Marquette’s academic freedom policies, which were adopted from the AAUP, by punishing McAdams for his extramural speech. It also focuses on Marquette’s requirement that McAdams apologize and publicly renounce his views — a punishment that “smacks of totalitarianism.” As stated by the AAUP:

This amicus brief also argues that Marquette violated Dr. McAdams’s due process rights by unilaterally imposing a new penalty that required Dr. McAdams to write a statement of apology/admission as a condition of reinstatement. This severe sanction would compel Dr. McAdams to renounce his opinions, a fundamental violation of his academic freedom. It also amounted to a de facto termination that was imposed in contravention of the FHC’s [Faculty Hearing Committee’s] recommended lesser penalty.

Many of the AAUP’s arguments bear similarities to those in FIRE’s own amicus brief supporting McAdams’s petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear the case. We hope that the Wisconsin Supreme Court will uphold due process and academic freedom by finding for McAdams.

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