A call for decency

A message from Marquette University President Michael Lovell

One week ago, I asked Professor John McAdams to apologize for actions he took to publicly shame one of our graduate students.

As a direct result of his actions, our student — who has since left the university — was subject to a stream of hate and threatening messages.

Professor McAdams characterizes the barrage as “some nasty e-mails and blog comments” directed at the student. But his attempt to downplay what happened doesn’t come close to reality. I feel it’s important to clarify exactly what Professor McAdams so quickly dismisses.

Warning: The following messages are disturbing. Our former student’s name is obscured along with the names of those who posted.

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These are just a tiny sample of the type of messages directed at our student, day in and day out. Others are far worse, if that can be imagined. She continues to receive hostile and threatening messages to this day.

Constructive dialogue and vigorous debate cannot exist when our discourse is so degraded. I’m not under any illusions about deplorable behavior on the Internet. Yes, it exists.

But what’s at issue here is a professor inflicting this type of personal attack on a student. That is simply unacceptable.

In the steps we took to resolve this matter, I asked Professor McAdams to take responsibility for his actions and show some remorse for what he put our student through. In response, Professor McAdams defiantly said he would apologize “when hell freezes over.”

Professor McAdams alone can decide whether or not he is remorseful for his actions. But if we are going to sustain our community and be true to our human values, we all need to engage in civil disagreement — not gleeful sabotage and destruction.

I’m not asking for Professor McAdams to be responsible for all the vitriol from the lowest of the Internet. As the president of Marquette University, I am asking for common human decency toward members of our own community. Nothing more and nothing less.

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