Blog #4/ “We had to walk across the street to have those discussions”

Naming is a powerful thing. As I reflect on our class discussion and the readings, I find myself returning to the notion of naming. Maybe it’s because I grew up hearing stories from my red diaper baby grandmother, or maybe it’s because I still remember the scandalous “slam books” that proliferated and infiltrated my pubescent seventh grade classroom. So when I consider how and why scholar activists are persecuted, my mind wanders — for better or worse — to consider parallels during McCarthyism and the vested power of naming individuals that can lead to doxing/doxxing. In present day, when we name someone, there are many toxic mechanisms vis-à-vis social media to cause a viral storm rife with bullying and stigmatization.

In my opinion, there is also great difference between publicly naming yourself via your own social media account versus ‘exercising your freedom of speech’ by naming another individual from the lens of a third party perspective. In the case of Marquette faculty member John McAdams, I do believe that the moment he named the graduate student in question, he wielded power and privilege at the expense of another individual and subjected that individual to unjust doxing and internet bullying.

In regards to the Marquette case, I want to spend some time digesting two specific quotes from the Slate blog post “Firing a Professor Over a Blog Post” that stood out to me. The first is one from John McAdams where he explains that, in his opinion, a discussion inclusive of all opinions regarding gay marriage was prevented “using a tactic typical among liberals,” which insinuates that opposing views “are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”

The second quote is in direct response to McAdams from a dean at Marquette: “Tenure and academic freedom carry not only great privileges but also vital responsibilities and obligations…those such as yourself invested with tenure’s power can carelessly and arrogantly intimidate and silence the less-powerful and then raise the shields of academic freedom and free expression against all attempts to stop such abuse.” [Emphasis added]

Whether it’s what McAdams coins the ‘tactic used by liberals’ to shut down conversation or the tenured professor who intimidates and silences the less-powerful, both quotes touch on notions related to the abuse of power and influence.

In the words of Kelly Wilz (read her, read her now), let us consider what makes us (both literally and figuratively) cross the street in order to have a discussion. For some, like Kelly Wilz, it is the aftermath of Wisconsin’s Act 10. Wilz explained that she found herself having certain conversations with students outside the classroom — literally across the street from official campus grounds. So to what lengths are we willing to ‘cross the street’ and when is crossing the street unjust or coerced?