Update from Abbate on McAdams (updated)


Cheryl Abbate, the former Marquette University philosophy graduate student who had become the target of a smear campaign by associate professor of political science John McAdams, has responded to some of the claims being made in various articles since it was announced that Marquette is seeking to fire McAdams. She writes:

It should be noted that there are a number of online articles that give the wrong impression that Marquette University is seeking to fire John McAdams over just one blog post he wrote about me (the November 9th, 2014 blog post). For instance, The Atlantic just posted an article titled “Stripping a Professor of Tenure Over a Blog Post.” This is a very misleading article title because John McAdams has written a number of blog posts about me which contain lies and defaming statements (for instance, that I called my student homophobic, that I said “any objection to gay marriage is homophobic,” that I have “sexist antipathy towards men,” and so forth). John McAdams has also repeated such lies to various news sources on a number of occasions. John McAdams also has a history of doing this exact sort of thing to other women at Marquette University.

I encourage readers to remain skeptical of any online articles that falsely state that John McAdams is being fired over one blog post–the authors of such articles evidently did not do their research or, if they did, they strangely chose to frame their articles in such a way that would mislead the public about why Marquette is taking such strong action against John McAdams. The attempt to fire McAdams is not about a “one time act of misconduct” on his part. From what I can tell (from reading the Dean’s letter), the attempt to fire McAdams is about his history of attacking vulnerable members of the Marquette community and his repeated lies about me on his blog (that he has also repeated, on a number of occasions, to various news sources). Here are two informed essays, which rightly acknowledge John McAdams’ pattern of harassing women at Marquette: (1) Beware of the Pedagogy Police: Cheryl Abbate v. John McAdams at Marquette  (by Professor Peter Kirstein) and (2) Marquette to Fire McAdams for Dereliction of Duty (by Professor Ira Allen). I recommend reading these two articles and ignoring any other articles that frame the controversy as a “controversy over a blog post.”

Her post is here.

UPDATE: The copy of the letter of intent to pursue termination proceedings for McAdams, from Richard Holz, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Marquette, which McAdams linked to, was altered to omit some information. This information includes, among other things, the fact that McAdams was the official academic advisor of the undergraduate who illicitly recorded his conversation with Abbate. This (a) reinforces Holz’s point that McAdams knew, or ought to have known, that the student did not drop the course for reasons concerning personal or political beliefs, and was lying or reckless when suggesting otherwise, and also (b) shows that McAdams acquired the information on which he based his blog posts about Abbate in virtue of his role as an official of the university. The full version of the letter from the dean (which does not reveal the student’s identity), is here.

Left unanswered is whose idea it was to record Abbate, or whether the idea was discussed, in advance, during one of the advising meetings between McAdams and the undergraduate.

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John Protevi
John Protevi
6 years ago

On the way in which McAdams picked out and repeated irrelevant but provocative language about Abbate, I would also recommend this whole piece for re-reading: https://ceabbate.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/gender-based-violence-responsibility-and-john-mcadams/

Reading McAdams’ own account of the 2011 incident is also very important. He prints the name and email of an undergraduate woman, calls her at home, and then blogs about how to find the phone number. http://mu-warrior.blogspot.com/2011/03/marquette-warrior-blogger-harassed-by.htmlReport

John Protevi
John Protevi
6 years ago

I don’t know the provisions of the MU process (which now begins in earnest), but I hope it includes the possibility of outside counsel, AAUP observation / participation, and other such actions, so that it will provide a rigorous testing of the administration’s claims and proposed penalty.

John ProteviReport

Will Behun
Will Behun
6 years ago

I would absolutely second John’s hope that outside counsel and third party observation be part of the MU process, in the interest of justice to be sure, but also to ensure that John McAdams doesn’t become some sort of martyr by being victimized by an insufficiently rigorous system. I wouldn’t want anyone to be able to look back and see even a hint that he wasn’t given a fair opportunity to defend his actions, even if I consider them to be indefensible.Report

Bijan Parsia
6 years ago

Wait wait wait…he was the undergrad’s ADVISOR!?!? And he??? altered the letter to CONCEAL THIS?!?!? So the “should have known” why the student was dropping was a pretty big should of known!!!

Frankly, this seems to 1) impinge on his fully mural (non extramural) activities and 2) there were clear wrongs against the undergrad by him!

Plus, frankly, it is quite plausible that he set up the whole thing. Some of the things the student said in the conversation seem…odd…coming from an undergraduate student (e.g., about her career, etc.) Obviously, I don’t know for sure, but I think that merits investigation. If he DID set this up with HIS ADVISEE! instead of trying to resolve the issue for that student, he was engaged in unambiguous malconduct squarely in his on campus duties. Wow!Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

McAdams knew, or ought to have known, that the student did not drop the course for reasons concerning personal or political beliefs, and was lying or reckless when suggesting otherwise

Presumably the claim that “the student did not drop the course for reasons concerning personal or political beliefs” is supposed to follow from the fact that he was receiving an F. But of course it does not follow. For one thing, the student may have had multiple reasons for dropping the course. Or, for another thing, the fact that the student was receiving an F may itself have been (at least partially) caused by the student’s perception that his viewpoint was suppressed in class. It’s especially hard to see why Weinberg feels justified in disregarding this possibility, given that the post immediately before this one is about precisely the ways in which feelings of alienation in educational environments can lead to academic disengagement.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

The copy of the letter of intent to pursue termination proceedings for McAdams, from Richard Holz, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Marquette, which McAdams linked to, was altered to omit some information.

This seems an unnecessarily ambiguous way of putting it. The fact that the student was an advisee of McAdams was indeed redacted, but (a) McAdams explicitly mentions that the copy of the letter he posted is redacted, and (b) the location of the redaction is clear. Anyway, this redaction seems highly reasonable to me, since the information clearly increases the chance that the undergraduate will be identifiable.Report

longcat
longcat
6 years ago

Anon, the student told the university he was dropping the course because he was failing. That isn’t speculation. Your claim that he could have been failing because he believed his views were suppressed is speculation, especially given that the student never made any claims about feeling suppressed other than in the same-sex marriage incident.Report

Eureka
Eureka
6 years ago

Anon 1: the complaining student *specifically* told someone from the Marquette administration that he dropped the class *because* he was failing the class— his reason for dropping the class is not up for debate since the university has the student specifically stating why he dropped the class on record (see page 3 of the letter to McAdams is that is confusing to you).
Anon 2: the point of this post is not to question McAdams’ decision to redact certain information from the letter he posted; the point of the post was to provide incredibly relevant information about the Abbate/McAdams controversy that the public did not have. So, I’m really not sure what the point of your post is or why you felt it would contribute anything useful.
A friendly suggestion: let’s refrain from (1) derailing the conversation, and (2) suggesting “hypotheticals” that clearly contradict the facts reported in the letter sent to McAdams by the Marquette Dean.Report

Anonymous Lawyer
Anonymous Lawyer
6 years ago

Point 1: I re-correct a statement I made in a different thread, the university did name the student in its — ineffective — effort the exculpate the university, its faculty and administration at the student’s expense. I am curious about where a unredacted copy of the letter was obtained for purposes of publishing it on this blog (with one less redaction), but that should of course be a matter of inquiry by the University and its administration (not that I am suggesting that Justin, as a journalist, should be asked to give up his source regarding this apparent misconduct).

Point 2: All kinds of conspiratorial, theories are being advanced here. This is a bit ironic since McAdams, whatever his other ideological failings, is known as a de-bunker of JFK assassination conspiracy theories. The professor — or professor in training — made the statements she did, and neither McAdams nor the student the university has — now all the more clearly — chosen to target put the problematic words in her mouth.Report

Eureka
Eureka
6 years ago

@ Anonymous Lawyer:
Point 1: Where do you see that the university named the complaining student? They did not. I am curious, how did you manage to become a lawyer without being able to see who is and who is not named in this straightforward document? Second, as it has already been pointed out to you, the university is not, by any means, attempting to “exculpate the university, its faculty and administration at the student’s expense” by referring to the *anonymous* student’s grade, ; it’s quite clear that Marquette drew attention to the student’s grade in order to point to the very important fact that: (1) the student himself reported that he dropped the class *because* of his grade, yet nevertheless (2) McAdams, who should have known this, willfully chose to imply, on his blog, that the student dropped the class because of Abbate’s so-called “intolerant” attitude. That is clearly defamation. I am not sure why that’s so hard for you to understand.
Point 2: you can click on the link to the letter that Justin Weinberg has embedded in this post. There is no “secret source” who engaged in “misconduct” by “secretly” delivering the letter to him; the letter is available for anyone to see who can operate a computer keyboard and/or mouse. Talk about conspiracy theories!!
Point 3: I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to question whether McAdams set the complaining student up to record Abbate, especially given that he is the student’s academic advisor; it is well known around Marquette that McAdams has a band of minions who attempt to set up professors and instructors in order to “catch” “liberal professors being liberal.” As a side note, Abbate is not a professor– or professor in training— she is a graduate student working on her PhD. I’m not sure why you went out of your way to refuse to acknowledge her status as a *graduate student* (actually, on second thought, I have a pretty good idea why you did:) ). There is no necessary connection between one’s obtaining a PhD and becoming a professor.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
6 years ago

Anonymous Lawyer, I am really quite befuddled at (all of) your comment(s). Since McAdams is the student’s adviser, I fail to see how the university discussing the matter of the student’s grade and coursework choices with McAdams himself could possibly be inappropriate, or at the student’s expense. It certainly seems inappropriate that McAdams would have embarked in these shenanigans at all when doing so might implicate one of his advisees, but how the university could be in the wrong for pointing out what McAdams ought to already know about that undergraduate student in his official capacity hardly seems to be at that student’s expense (isn’t his adviser supposed to know what’s going on with him academically, precisely for his own benefit?) nor, as you put it in another thread, defamatory.Report

Bijan Parsia
6 years ago

This is the second time, IIRC, that Anonymous Lawyer has claimed that the university has named the student in the letter which, afaict, they haven’t and they haven’t released the letter publically. I wonder if AL is looking at a different copy or whether they’ll retract this claim again.

I’m not sure what the nonsense is about JFK conspiracy debunking is supposed to do.Report

Confused
Confused
6 years ago

How exactly would the release of the information that “John McAdams is the complaining student’s advisor” increases the chance that the undergraduate’s identity would be revealed? As far as I know, there is no “list” of McAdams’ advisees available for the public to access. I suspect that McAdams advises a number of students, so any attempt to identify the student by looking at a list of McAdams’ advisees, were one to become available, would be mere speculation.

As a side note, based on Anon’s logic, one could argue that if McAdams really cared about protecting the identity of the complaining student, he should not have even mentioned that the student dropped Abbate’s class in his original blog post, since Abbate’s class size at Marquette is approximately 30 students and at least some of the students in her class would be aware of which student is missing in a class size that small. Thus, based on Anon’s logic, McAdams decision to report that the student dropped Abbate’s class, or even that that he was in Abbate’s class at all, “clearly increases the chance that the undergraduate will be identifiable..”

Keeping this all in mind, it seems pretty safe to assume that McAdams’ intention, when redacting that little bit of relevant information about him being the student’s academic advisor, was to protect himself and not the student (and…if he did care about “protecting” the student, why not redact the information about the student’s grade?).Report

Another Anonymous lawyer
Another Anonymous lawyer
6 years ago

I read Anonymous Lawyer’s comments with a little bemusement. First, and this bears on the Salaita situation, McAdams does not have “due process” rights as such, he has implied contractual rights as a tenured faculty member to have discipline, including academic discipline, administered in accordance with the implied terms of his contract – and this is because Marquette is a private university. By contrast Salaita was applying for a job with a public institution, which means that a different analysis of “due process” “equal protection” and first amendment rights applies. It is important to remember, most of the US is an employment at will environment (something many of McAdam’s political supporters enthusiastically back by the way), so for McAdams to succeed in arguing he was unfairly treated, he would have to show that the treatment was not consistent with the disciplinary procedures at Marquette as set forth in the academic regulations and handbook.

I also read the Atlantic Article and initially thought McAdams had been harshly treated – then I read more and found out that there was much more to the story than Fridersdorf reported. Indeed the reporting in the Atlantic and elsewhere has been unfortunately tendentious, particularly because it has left out very relevant facts to a fair reading of the whole imbroglio. If as it seems, McAdams has a history of whipping up digital lynch-mobs against anyone at the university, but particularly students, that is a very serious transgression. For McAdams to suggest that he did not expect such a thing to happen reminds me of a scene in Casablanca “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” McAdams had seen such mobbing before, his actions had instigated such mobbing before, what did he expect to happen?Report