Wisconsin Supreme Court Sides With Conservative Professor In Landmark Free-Speech Case

In a landmark decision that will help protect conservative groups and professors against liberal repression on college campuses, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that Marquette University shouldn't have fired conservative professor John McAdams for writing a blog post criticizing a student instructor's decision to shut down discussion about opposition to gay marriage, per the Associated Press.

McAdams
John McAdams

The ruling contends that Marquette, a Catholic University, violated its contract with McAdams guaranteeing academic freedom. The court also declared that McAdams should be immediately reinstated. McAdams sued Marquette in 2016 alleging that he lost his job for exercising his freedom of speech. The case has been sent back to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court so that damages, including back pay, can be awarded to McAdams, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"The undisputed facts show that the University breached its contract with Dr. McAdams when it suspended him for engaging in activity protected by the contract's guarantee of academic freedom," said the opinion written by Justice Daniel Kelly.

The case could set a new precedent for academic freedom at a time when universities have been widely criticized for suppressing conservative thought and even going so far as to ban "controversial" conservative speakers from campus, for fear that leftist groups might instigate a riot.

McAdam's attorney praised the ruling as a victory for free speech. 

"The Wisconsin Supreme Court has struck a major blow in favor of free speech," said McAdams' attorney, Rick Esenberg, of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

"Make no mistake about it, this is a major day for freedom," Esenberg said. "It is our sincere hope that Marquette University appreciates and learns from this episode and takes care to guard free speech on campus."

Since the beginning, the only thing McAdams wanted to do was "teach students without having to compromise his principles," Esenberg said. "Yet Marquette refused to honor its promises of academic freedom and now, thanks to the Supreme Court, he will be able to teach again."

While McAdams argued that his contract allowed for "academic freedom and free expression", Marquette argued that McAdams wasn't fired for the content of the blog post, published in 2014, but because he named the instructor and linked to her personal website that had personal identifying information, leading to a flood of hateful messages to be sent to the professor.

As the AP points out, the ruling has been eagerly awaited by conservatives who see universities as liberal havens. Indeed, former Marquette student Zachary Petrizzo penned an open letter earlier this year explaining his decision to leave Marquette because of its "rampant political bias" and "growing separation from the Catholic Church."

After one year at the institution, however, I have discovered that Marquette is anything but a Jesuit and Catholic university. There is no acceptance of conservative thoughts, let alone “diversity of thought,” and opinions that I support are frequently shut down in the classrooms.

I remember vividly a Comparative Politics class during which I mentioned that I found merit to the idea of building a border wall, only to be verbally rebuked by the professor for my opinion.

At one point, several professors hung Planned Parenthood signs on their office doors, yet the same administrators who are always quick to warn students against “microaggressions” still have not even issued a statement affirming the school’s pro-life values.

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The firing of Dr. John McAdams has also inspired a great amount of concern among conservative students and professors, as it has shown that speaking one’s mind, at least when it doesn’t involve pandering to leftist ideas, can lead not only to the typical accusations of racism and bigotry, but can even jeopardize one’s very livelihood.

McAdams discussed the circumstances that led to his firing, and the evolution of how leftists came to predominate on American college campuses, in an interview with Campus Reform.

We suspect more than a few students are going to need a hug and safe-space to cope with this decision...