Doctor John McAdams passed away last week. He leaves behind a legacy as a warrior for freedom of thought and speech in an era that desperately needs more warriors like him.
In the spring of 2003, I received an email from an old friend asking if I wanted to start a weblog, or blog, with him. The internet was in its toddler phase. It was before Facebook and Twitter existed. Internet Explorer was the most popular browser, Yahoo was the most popular search engine, and the first iPhone was still four years in the future.
Blogging was just coming into its own as a way for amateurs to share their thoughts with the world. It was a revolution in media access where a pajama-wearing basement-dweller could rival media giants with the power of thoughts, well-constructed arguments, and the right mix of style and character. For a few years, the Wisconsin blogosphere was a vibrant avant-garde exploring cultural and political discussions hitherto controlled by the mainstream media or consigned to sloshy conversations at the end of the tavern bar. We were of different ages, backgrounds, circumstances, philosophies, and motivations, but were united in the celebration of this new medium of free expression. We ventured out of our homes to meet each other in person at blog summits and casual gatherings. It was at was one of these blog events that I first met the Marquette Warrior in person.
Doctor John McAdams was a conservative professor at Marquette University during the time of the radical leftist takeover of that once Jesuit center of learning. His blog was titled “Marquette Warrior” with the stated goal of providing “an independent, rather skeptical view of events at Marquette University,” and it certainly fulfilled that mission.
Doctor John McAdams passed away last week. He leaves behind a legacy as a warrior for freedom of thought and speech in an era that desperately needs more warriors like him. McAdams was jovial, witty, occasionally crass, extraordinarily intelligent, and unapologetically conservative. His professorial tone and pleasingly lax physique belied his steely spine. McAdams was not one to casually suffer affronts to liberty or what he thought was right. While he fought a long, brawling ideological battle with his employer and the leftists reshaping his beloved university with many advances and setbacks, he will be best remembered for taking that fight to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and winning a landmark ruling that will protect academic liberty for generations.
McAdams has been blogging about incidents at Marquette University for over a decade when, in 2014, he blogged about yet another incident of woke indoctrination that has become commonplace throughout academia. A graduate student was teaching a class when she lectured her students that gay marriage was ethically and morally correct and that any arguments against it were automatically homophobic and immoral. When a student objected that it was at least worthy of debate — especially in an ostensibly Catholic university — the instructor shut down debate as illegitimate.
McAdams blogged about the incident arguing that irrespective of one’s views on gay marriage, a university classroom was supposed to be a place where divergent ideas could be debated openly and honestly. That is the difference between education and indoctrination. Education invites scrutiny and debate. Indoctrination rejects all discussion as inappropriate and immoral.
That post by McAdams began a story that would end in his unequivocal victory. In retaliation to the blog post, Marquette University suspended McAdams and offered him the opportunity to return to the classroom only if he would prostrate himself before the university overlords and beg for forgiveness. But McAdams was made of stiffer stuff. He fought. He fought hard. And he won.
McAdams fought the university all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In the landmark 2018 ruling of McAdams v. Marquette University, the court ruled that the “University breached the Contract by suspending Dr. McAdams for exercising his contractually-protected right of academic freedom,” and ordered him reinstated. McAdams humbly returned to the classroom for the remainder of his life.
Dr. McAdams’ fight was a fight for all Wisconsinites. When others were swept away by the Legions of Woke, the lonely Marquette Warrior was the rock upon which they broke. He will be sorely missed.