McAdams Estimates His Case Could’ve Cost University $1 Million

Last month the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Marquette University Political Science Professor John McAdams was improperly suspended after he publicly criticized a graduate student by name on his politically conservative blog. But what was the cost to the university after the nearly four year battle?

Media Trackers previously reported the case, in which Marquette had indefinitely suspended McAdams in 2014 after a post on his blog, The Marquette Warrior, criticized a philosophy instructor and graduate student Cheryl Abbate. In a recorded conversation, Abbate told a student at the Catholic university she would not allow discussion of viewpoints critical of same-sex marriage in her class. When McAdams’ blog post about the incident went viral,  Abbate said she received a number of harassing emails, and McAdams was suspended.

However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court recently ruled that McAdams was improperly suspended and ordered the university to immediately reinstate McAdams.

In a recent blog, McAdams wrote that the estimated legal cost of the case for Marquette may have been between $750,000 and $1,000,000 dollars, a number which was estimated by, “three sources of ours intimately familiar with this case and with lawyers’ billing rates.” Additionally, McAdams wrote in his blog that Marquette hired the Edelman public relations firm to help with backlash, another costly addition to the case.

A public relations firm like Edelman, McAdams reported on his blog, recently assisted Michigan State University in the case of Olympics gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Michigan State paid the firm $517,343 for more than 1,440 hours of work just tracking social media in the month of January. It’s unknown how much Marquette spent on damage control in the over three years of the McAdams case.

In an interview with Media Trackers, McAdams said that while it’s difficult to precisely say how much the case cost the school, the damage to the university’s reputation was just as costly:

The damage to Marquette’s reputation has to be substantial. I think the people running Marquette want to position themselves as being, what I would say as being very politically correct, but they would say being committed to diversity or something like that. But the problem there is you have to ask what kind of parents want a Catholic education for their kids, and it’s going to be parents who don’t much like political correctness. It’s going to be parents who may not be devout Catholics but have some respect for the notion of Catholic or Jesuit education. And when you blow that, that hurts.
Beyond damage to the university’s reputation, McAdams wrote in his blog that many Marquette alumni told McAdams they would no longer contribute to the university. One Marquette alumnus, Paul Gruber, wrote in a Wall Street Journal article concerning his fellow alumni reaction:
I have been involved and effective at raising millions of dollars for Marquette University. Recently I observed the law of unintended consequences working when a fellow dental alum rescinded his six-figure donation because of President Lovell’s action.

McAdams told Media Trackers he believed the effort by the Edelman public relations firm “didn’t turn things much one way or another.” He said:

It may have influenced some people, but I think most people sort of lined up on the basis on what they think about political correctness on campus. That is the people who came down against me were people who believe that certain speech should be shut up. That is, they really believe that you shouldn’t be able to oppose gay marriage, that it’s hate speech. The people who sided with me, I think, are people who are sick and tired of political correctness on college campuses and believe in free speech.

It’s been a very costly fiasco for Marquette and it has to be interpreted as a massive error of judgment on Michael Lovell’s part.
Despite the personal cost, McAdams told Media Trackers the case was important in spreading awareness of political correctness in academia:
The original blog post was important, because what Cheryl Abbate said is increasingly typical in academia, particularly in the humanities and some of the social sciences, educations and communications. This kind of intolerant political correctness is in fact very much the norm. That’s why this blog post was important. Ironic because this is at a supposedly Catholic university that you get called homophobic for opposing gay marriage.
Not only my original blog post but Marquette’s response, made it clear that kind ideology dominates at Marquette.
Media Trackers reached out to Marquette for a response on the cost of the case, but has not heard back from them.