Should a tenured professor be fired for online criticism of a graduate student instructor who allegedly told a student not to oppose same-sex marriage in her class? The story from Inside Higher Ed:
In November, [John] McAdams, an associate professor of political science [at Marquette University], wrote a blog post accusing a teaching assistant in philosophy of shutting down a classroom conversation on gay marriage based on her own political beliefs. His account was based on a recording secretly made by a disgruntled student who wished that the instructor, Cheryl Abbate, had spent more time in class one day on the topic of gay marriage, which the student opposed. McAdams said Abbate, in not allowing a prolonged conversation about gay marriage, was “using a tactic typical among liberals,” in which opinions they disagree with “are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”
Abbate said McAdams had distorted her actions—and that she wasn’t trying to shut down an argument she disagreed with, but simply had wanted to keep a focus on an in-class conversation about the philosopher John Rawls’s equal liberty principle. But conservative blogs spread McAdams’ take on the situation— and she found herself receiving a flood of hateful email messages, some of them threatening.
And from FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education):
Marquette is taking action against McAdams, a political conservative and frequent critic of the administration, supposedly in response to his online criticism of a graduate student instructor who told a student not to oppose same-sex marriage in her class. Marquette had previously suspended McAdams without due process, treated him as though he presented a violent threat, and cancelled his current semester’s classes. …
“If Marquette can fire a tenured professor for criticizing a fellow teacher on a blog, then tenure at Marquette is worthless, as are freedom of speech and academic freedom,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “While this is more than likely just an excuse to get rid of McAdams, the fact that McAdams’s supposed offense was criticizing a teacher for squelching dissenting opinions in class only makes Marquette’s utter contempt for dissenters more obvious.
It’s hard to say what the truth of the matter is, but this is bad optics even if McAdams over-reached. Some instructors do, sometimes, stifle/shame students for expressing political opinions that they disagree with, and it’s legitimate to call them out on it. And if that’s not what happened in Abbate’s classroom, then she certainly can respond. So the firing of McAdams sounds like politically correct intolerance by those who like to present themselves as defenders of tolerance (just not of views they happen to know are incorrect).