McAdams on 'The Perils of Working at a Catholic University'

Professor John McAdams started his presentation to the local chapter of Catholics United for the Faith a week ago Sunday started out with some background. I'll paraphrase the first example in the form of the academic equivalent of a light-bulb joke. How many university administrators did it take to (in 2006) mistakenly judge an anti-big government quote (from a Dave Barry column) taped on an office door as not protected by academic freedom? It took four, Philosophy Department Chair James South, who "consulted two members of the Executive Committee and the Assistant Chair." As in the Marquette's current attempt to fire McAdams, South tried to define the protections of academic freedom away, saying,
"While I am a strong supporter of academic freedom, I’m afraid that hallways and office doors are not 'free-speech zones.'"
When this made the news,
"Marquette spokeswoman Brigid O’Brien Miller said South’s decision was primarily a workplace issue, not an issue of academic freedom..."
So MU's position is that it respects academic freedom, it's just that it doesn't apply where academics work.

Such past attempts at recharacterization seem to me to undercut MU President Lovell's assertion regarding McAdams' case that

"The decisions here have everything to do with our Guiding Values and expectations of conduct toward each other and nothing to do with academic freedom, freedom of speech, or same-sex marriage... ."
Rather than summarize more of his background information, see McAdams' Marquette Warrior blog on the office door posting, sexual harassment training, "Girls Night Out", The Vagina Monologues and The Feminine Sexuality Workshop (FemSex).

Also at his blog is his account of his criticism of a graduate student instructor for which MU now wants to fire him.

He went on to speak more generally on contemporary university and faculty culture.

Regarding the faculty's ideological divide, it varies among departments. Education, Communications, English, Theology and Philosophy skew left, Political Science, Economics, Engineering not so much. This reflects the ideology of the people in the respective Ph.D. programs from which universities hire. In the Q&A he noted the potential for the spiral of silence effect to turn a majority view into a norm. On the other hand, he assessed the distribution of views of the student body as probably fairly close to the general public's.

Within departments, McAdams generalized and the old Left wanted to argue with anyone on the Right, the newest Left wants to prevent the Right from making its arguments.

Separate from ideology, as such, he noted the growth in the number of administrators. This isn't limited to Marquette. I noted recently that The Economist reported

"In 1976 there were only half as many college bureaucrats as academic staff; now the ratio is almost one to one."
This increases the power of bureaucrats within the institution, as well as contributing to expense. In addition to their compensation, dministrators, McAdams said, don't just deal with the operation of the institution as it is. They come up with "initiatives" which compete with existing programs for resources, and add to overall costs.

Regarding Catholic identity of a college, he suggested due diligence, making your own investigation before sending a child, grandchild, or money. He noted that some public universities have vibrant campus ministries, including UW-Madison, with more substance than students might find at many nominally Catholic colleges. For initial information, his suggestions included The Cardinal Newman Society. If you're only risking money, he said to consider more focused and independent giving, rather than a general gift to a college. Even substantial gifts, like for endowed chairs or designated scholarships, are subject to being co-opted over time. Also in the Q&A he noted legacy loyalty as a problem. People have fond memories of college, for example, and assume that things are still going along pretty much as they remember them. This can be a problem more generally in the Church as well.

Finally, early on he mentioned that he is not a Catholic, which was news to me.

1 comment:

  1. Shame on Marquette for what they have done to this man!


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