Daniel Maguire on the McAdams Case at Marquette

The following letter, reprinted with permission, was written by Marquette University professor Daniel McGuire to Michael Lovell, president of the university, concerning the case of professor John McAdams, who was suspended and barred from campus for criticizing a graduate student instructor on his personal blog.

By Daniel Maguire

At a faculty meeting on last Thursday, our theology chair Bob Masson recommended that we write our views on this case to you if we wished. 

I was at dinner with several local attorneys when the banishment of Professor McAdams was in the press. From what they read in the press (and the story has gone national) they could not understand, nor could I, how the punishment would be inflicted before the promised “review.” It struck them as a blatant violation of due process legal requirements that exposed the university to unnecessary liabilities and risks. (General Counsel cc’d above) 

The AAUP allows for the suspension of a professor, but never without due process. The penalty you imposed on Professor McAdams is, in AAUP terms, “a severe sanction.” According to the norms of the academe it cannot be imposed without well spelled out procedures. Courts are often influenced by the established norms of the organization involved in a case, in this case the academe. 

“If the administration believes that the conduct of a faculty member, although not constituting adequate cause for dismissal, is sufficiently grave to justify imposition of a severe sanction, such as suspension from service for a stated period, the administration may institute a proceeding to impose such a severe sanction; the procedures outlined in regulation 5 will govern such a proceeding.” (Policy Documents & Reports: American Association of University Professors, 1990 Edition, p. 27)

The sanction you imposed is not just a “severe sanction.” In almost half a century in the academe, I have never seen a similar punishment imposed on a professor in this “blunt instrument” fashion. The banning of the professor from campus unless he gets permission from the dean strikes me as bizarre, demeaning, and unjust. It announces on the public record that Professor McAdams is some sort of threat to the persons in this academic community…..leaving volatile suspicions in the air as to what that threat could be. Is he less a threat when he has the dean’s permission to be on campus? If the unavoidable inference that Professor McAdams is so threatening as to merit banishment is true, has campus security been alerted to protect us from Professor McAdams?

Over the years Professor McAdams and I have disagreed on many issues—and he has excoriated me on his blog—but all my personal interactions with him have been uniformly civil and urbane. Again, as Cardinal Newman said, in a university many minds are free to compete. That’s the glory of it. 

This “unnecessary roughness” to borrow a term from the NFL, has already inflicted damage on Professor McAdams’ professional reputation. I am not surprised at the report that he has retained counsel. 

I believe you owe us more explanation that you have given on your decision on this matter. Since reports on this situation have gotten national attention and stirred up remembrance of the Dr. Jodi O’Brien contract violation Marquette’s reputation is affected. We are all affected. The incident has a chilling effect on all members and staff since it implies that due-process protections may be brittle and uncertain at this university and specifically under your presidency. It is certainly not an aid in recruiting quality faculty. 

Finally, I have not heard the possibility broached that better mentoring of graduate student teachers re handling student inquiries and requests could have obviated this brouhaha. Experienced teachers know that there were better ways the student teacher could have handled this situation.


Daniel C. Maguire