An open letter to Archbishop Jerome Listecki
My name is Vincent Torley, and I’m an Australian Catholic layman (now residing in Japan), with a Ph.D. in philosophy and several other degrees. Thanks to my years of study in an open academic environment where people were free to defend any and every point of view, I have a firm commitment to the values of academic freedom and unfettered free speech on campus, and I have defended these values on previous occasions (see here and here). At the same time, I believe that a university which calls itself Catholic should be free to propagate Catholic beliefs – such as the belief that abortion is wrong, or that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.
It appears that back in the fall of 2014, the teaching assistant told the student in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed to defend the traditional Catholic doctrine of man-woman marriage in the classroom. “You can have whatever opinions you want but I can tell you right now, in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, and sexist comments will not be tolerated,” she said. [See here for a transcript of their conversation, which was published in The Atlantic in an article by Conor Friedersdorf.] When the student pressed her further, and asked: “So, are you saying that not agreeing with gay marriage is homophobic?”, the teaching assistant responded: “To argue that individuals should not have rights is going to be offensive to someone in this class.” (In fact, the Marquette Harassment policy prohibits “verbal, written or physical conduct directed at a person or a group based on… gender or sexual orientation where the offensive behavior… could or does result in mental, emotional or physical discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule or harm,” which means that if there had been a gay or lesbian student in the classroom that day, he or she could have legitimately complained of “mental or emotional discomfort,” upon hearing a student defend the Catholic position on marriage.)
When this incident came to the attention of Marquette University political science associate professor John McAdams, a tenured academic who has a Harvard Ph.D., he publicized the incident on his private blog, in an entry dated November 9, 2014. But after the teaching assistant in question complained of getting hate mail, McAdams was told that he would be stripped of his tenure and fired, even though McAdams had nothing to do with those hateful messages, and even though the teaching assistant had already been granted a tenure track position at another university. (Dr. McAdams was also subsequently criticized for naming the teaching assistant, but he broke no university rules in doing so, and as Dr. McAdams has pointed out, she was not functioning as a “student,” but as a faculty member, when she shut down a classroom discussion on the traditional view of marriage.) Since then, a “diverse” faculty committee has recommended to the university president that Dr. McAdams be suspended without pay from April 1 through the fall of 2016, and that he lose his job unless he admits his “guilt” and issues a grovelling apology expressing his regret at the “harm” suffered by the graduate student “within the next two weeks.” Specifically, Dr. McAdams must acknowledge that his original November 9, 2014, blog post was “reckless and incompatible with the mission and values of Marquette University.”More.
Marquette University is one of the ten American colleges guilty of the most egregious violations of free speech during the past year, according to Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
Torley wants Marquette to quit claiming to be Catholic. Why? Just because it doesn’t allow anyone to represent traditional Catholic teachings on campus? The U knows that Catholic alumni just go on giving money, so …
Not to worry: At some point, the Marquette jackboots will demand, all on their own, that every vestige of Catholicism be removed from the place, because it offends a designated victim group.
Philosopher Torley need only be patient.