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February 11, 2015


Russ Ford

Hi John,

I think your take is a nice outline of the situation. I've found it frustrating, as I follow/read various online contributions to the discussion of this case, that so many commentators make the following moves:

1) Register their distaste for McAdams' actions

2) Assert that these actions ought to be condemned by the professional community

3) Assert that there ought to be due process by MU in dealing with McAdams

4) Proceed to speculate about whether or not due process has been (and/or will be) followed

What seems missing is real and sustained outrage over McAdams' actions. I agree with you that the professional community ought to be concerned about due process but we should also remember that we are on the outside looking in (especially now, with Holz's letter being, to some extent, the beginning of the official proceedings). There are certainly issues that we have only partial knowledge of (due to confidentiality, etc.) but what we do have full knowledge of are McAdams' public actions.

Why the rush to wring our hands over a possible violation of "academic freedom" or a possible future violation of academic due process rather than to give a clear and unambiguous condemnation of actions that are in violation of commonsense norms of professional conduct (of a mentor or even a colleague)? In other words, I wish there were more people saying: this is ugly, unprofessional behavior that we as a community reject and we hope that it is resolved in a clear and equitable way by the relevant institutional parties.

The amount of energy being spent to parse "academic freedom" and to fret over due process rather than firmly rejecting McAdams' actions - and, perhaps even offering some expression of sympathy for the awful ordeal that Abbate continues to endure - must be (I worry) a disturbing testament of the priorities of the scholarly community to anyone suffering similar harassment.

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