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TRIAL: Atheist Turned Christian Professor Denied Promotion

A University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor who says he was denied a promotion because of his Christian, conservative beliefs is pleading his case to a jury this week.

“Universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, not a place where professors face retaliation for having a different view than university officials,” stated Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Travis Barham, who represents Dr. Mike Adams in a civil trial that launched Monday in a U.S. District Court in Greenville, North Carolina.

“Disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s religious and political views is no grounds for denying him a promotion.”

The trial was granted last year by a federal court that determined there was enough evidence for the case to go forward, ruling the First Amendment protects the views of Adams, a criminology professor whose opinion columns were unpopular and disliked by many of his administrators and peers. The case, originally filed in March 2010, has been fought over in the courts for the past four years, but is expected to be settled soon.

Adams was hired by the university in 1993 as an assistant professor of criminology. He was a self-described atheist at that time.

Several years after his hire, the suit states “he earned strong teaching evaluations, received two faculty awards, published several articles,” and was a very involved humanitarian.

In 2000, however, Adams reconsidered his atheism and became Christian. His conversion led him to publicly speak out on conservative issues, including through a column on Townhall.com.

“After this, he was subjected to intrusive investigations, baseless accusations, and the denial of promotion to full professor even though his scholarly output surpassed that of almost all of his colleagues,” according to the professor’s attorney, who assert the university “denied Adams a promotion because his nationally syndicated opinion columns espoused religious and political views that ran contrary to the opinions held by university officials.”

Adams’ radical conversion had been noted by many of his colleagues. The lawsuit contends his views began to “cause tension across campus,” so much so that his interim department chair “suggested that Adams alter his ‘tone’ to sound less ‘caustic.’”

His first incident came in 2001, in which a student claimed harassment and fear of safety after an email exchange, which according to the suit went as follows:

“On September 15, 2001, a UNCW student sent an email to a number of students and faculty members, including plaintiff, blaming the September 11 attacks on U.S. foreign policy. Plaintiff responded two days later, calling the student’s email ‘bigoted, unintelligent, and immature,’ but noting that the Constitution protected her writing, just as it protected his response.”

This incident did not receive public attention until Adams went on the Hannity & Colmes show on Fox News to discuss the matter. The student threatened legal action, but the university dealt with it internally.

In 2003, Adams began writing for Townhall.com. The fallout from some university administrators was quick:

“In September 2003, plaintiff began writing a column for the website Townhall.com. His column focused on the cultural and ideological climate on university campuses… It also showcased plaintiff’s conservative religious beliefs. Soon after plaintiff started writing the column, university administrators and faculty members were inundated with a flood of complaints from upset readers, including potential donors …”

Despite the difficulty amongst colleagues, Adams continued to receive high marks on his reviews and evaluations in 2003, according to the suit.

In 2004, Adams faced other incidents. The suit alleges that the department secretary was so upset about Adams that he was asked not to speak about his columns at work. At the same time, he was mocked by the university community in the campus student newspaper, called “a wannabe right-wing pundit,” “mentally unbalanced” and a “pathological liar.”

In 2006, Dr. Adams applied for full professorship at University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He was promptly denied by the university.

The university claimed that his “scholarly research” was their main concern as to why they denied his appeal. The review board seemed to agree on the three other requirements: service, advising and teaching. One professor claimed that his research was almost “non-existent,” and several others had problems with him speaking at forums that had nothing to do with his specialty. However, in the suit, a 2004 review claimed that:

Plaintiff had one article published in 2004 in an excellent peer-reviewed journal. He had one other article submitted for publication. His colleagues ranked this as ‘good,’ which was about average in the department.

Also stated in court documents:

Dr. John S. Rice (“Rice”) believed that plaintiff was strong in the teaching category but that his research record was less impressive. Rice was concerned that plaintiff’s production had decreased since tenure, and he lamented the fact that all but one of plaintiff’s refereed publications were co-authored (noting that, in his experience, “a single authored article often requires more time and research effort than a co-authored piece,” and that “[f]aculty reviewers tend to credit single authored publications more.”)

The faculty also reviewed his columns, and Rice gave Adams credit for being influential in conservative circles, but “had difficulty recognizing [plaintiff] as a scholar within our field” because he had not, in Rice’s opinion, developed a national reputation in sociology, criminology, or criminal justice. Furthermore, the suit states that Rice suggested that the opinion columns did not constitute service to the department or university.

Another review member echoed similar sentiments, opining that Adams “did not meet the ‘service’ criterion for promotion due to his lack of participation in university and department activities in recent years.” Despite this negativity, the reviewer leaned toward a yes vote for full professorship.

To be promoted to full professor, applicants must offer substantial contributions to their discipline, according to university guidelines.

“Although a candidate for the rank of professor is usually expected to present more tangible evidence of accomplishment than that of the associate professor rank, the difference in artistic and research expectations for a full professor is not solely quantitative,” the guidelines state. “Greater quality, maturity, significance and originality of artistic achievement or research accomplishment are expected at this rank.”

But the suit suggests the idea of what scholarly research means is debated:

As department chair, defendant Cook at one point advised a new faculty member that the research criterion of the “tenure/promotion standard” had no specific numeric requirement. However, she explained that to remain on “Graduate Faculty status” required a “lower limit” of one peer-reviewed journal article every two years, with a “higher expectation” of one peer-reviewed journal article per year.

Even the interim chair stated in her deposition that there is “no magic number of publications for promotion to full professor, and that the focus was on what the professor had done since the last promotion.”

The trial is expected to conclude today.

College Fix contributor Ben Smith is a student at UNC Chapel Hill.

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IMAGE: Dr. Mike Adams

Add to the Discussion

  • Pepperspray137

    “My actions were moral,”
    Says the pornography professor.

    • JAG39

      Of course her actions were moral, because her “area of emphasis is black cultural studies, pornography and sex work”. Within that framework, everything she does must be perceived as moral.

  • Noname

    Oh please. I’ve had Adams as a professor. He got my exam stuck to another persons and didn’t grade it because of that, then told me he was sorry and would grade my exam later. The day of our final exam he emailed me accusing me of cheating him and that he would “fight until the end” about this “mysterious” exam laying on his desk. I tried to talk with him but he told me to wait outside his office. When he came out 20 min later, he told me he didn’t have time to talk to me and that I should’ve come sooner. He finally gave me a C as a final grade, even though I literally aced all of my exams (our only grades in the class). The guy is a jerk that just wants to fight the system because he can. He shouldn’t be allowed to teach. His biases are heavily shown in his courses.

    • So…a person with an axe to grind against the mentioned professor badmouthing the professor. Why should I take your view seriously again?

    • Perplexed

      Who is Adams and what does Adams have to do with this story?

  • Noname

    And did I mention his study guides ARE the exam? Of course he gets high marks for teaching, everybody loves it because it’s easy. He goes over the exams basically word for word. 2/3 exams are take home. This isn’t about religion, it’s about this guy being a self-righteous prick without any backing.

    • Rob Crawford

      Says the anonymous coward.

    • Interesting. If that was an issue, you would think it would have been mentioned in the lawsuit previously… That makes me think take home tests are considered acceptable at that school. I know I’ve taken college classes that used take home tests and my impression was that other classes used them too.

    • I can’t speak for all MTax programs, but in every course that I have taken for my MTax program the professors have allowed them to be open book, open notes including using the study guide for their lectures.

      Oh, and this school is predominantly Leftist (being based in San Francisco). So I guess it must be about secularism or self-righteous pricks without any backing.

      Or something.

      • Ex-Oligarch

        This comment is posted below an article about a professor of sociology at University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

        • It was weird, it was supposed to be in response to Adams. Something is up with the College Fix discussion board.

  • Senior prof

    I am a senior tenured full professor at an R1 university, and I have a lot of experience with personnel matters. In my view, this is a serious offense that should result in a revocation of tenure and an action for dismissal with cause.

    Let’s think about what Miller-Young did. First, she stole the property of a person who was lawfully on campus and lawfully displaying a poster that she (Miller-Young) found offensive. The fact that I disagree with a display posted by another person–even if I consider it offensive–does not give me the right to take that property. Do we really want to have a policy that permits individuals who find a display offensive to steal and destroy that display? Indeed, as a professor I have a special obligation to protect the right of others to articulate their views, even if I find those views disagreeable. The fact that the property contained a political message means that it should be afforded even more protection in a university setting than that afforded simple property.

    Second, Miller-Young assaulted a young woman who was simply trying to get her property back. When a professor assaults a student for whatever reason, it opens up a higher level of scrutiny by the employing university, and frankly Miller-Young cannot withstand that scrutiny. Imagine that instead of stealing a poster she had stolen a bike. What do you think would be the penalty for a university employee (including a professor) who stole a bike and then assaulted the owner when he/she tried to recover the stolen bike? If I had stolen a student’s bike and then assaulted the student when he/she tried to recover the bike, rest assured that my university would initiate dismissal-for-cause charges, regardless of my tenured status.

    If these charges were not so serious, I would say that Miller-Young should be required to take sensitivity training and be subjected to a psychological evaluation as a condition of continued employment. In this case, though, the charges are serious enough to warrant termination action on the part of the university.

    One other point: Miller-Young’s actions come from a false sense of entitlement that is often created in university communities. This sense of entitlement permits politically-protected classes of people to say the most outrageous things without fear of having those outrageous views questioned. Most reasonable people listening to Miller-Young talk or reading her response to questions in the police report would see a person with an outrageous sense of entitlement–e.g., she found it offensive so of course she had a right to steal it. She can make such outrageous claims because she has no doubt made other outrageous claims in the past and taken little or no heat for it. That there is a petition drive on her behalf shows how badly UC-Santa Barbara has cultivated this unreasonable sense of entitlement.

    • 4low2go

      Why are you commenting on a different article? This one is about Dr Mike Adams & UNCW, not UCSB.

      • Eric Parlin


      • 4low2go


  • Jim Wiseman

    Why do I see the same comments listed for 2 different article pages, mixed together?

  • TimeToEscalate

    The real answer to this sort of garbage is to take commensurate action. Once the UCSB administration inevitably lets this moron off with a slap on the wrist, take precisely the same actions as Miller-Young – but against a lefty target. I’d recommend going after a radical animal rights protest – they tend to post digusting images of slaughterhouses and the like at their petrulli soaked card tables.

    Shred their poster, in the exact same manner, and offer the same rationale; “officer, I was triggered by those posters – I’d just had lunch at In-and-Out, and the images were disturbing and upsetting to me”. Then dare the administration to treat you differently.

    Words won’t work with these people. They think they’ve won the argument to the point where they don’t have to make it. They will only understand action.

  • Ron Stanford

    A feminist, black cultural studies of pornography and sex work? I know one position that should be cut the next time UCSB’s budget needs trimming.

  • UnaffiliatedVoter

    Still don’t understand why Adams wants to be employed by such a corrupt university system??? why would he want to be there???

    • Timona of Athens

      There needs must be a leaven in the lump.

  • garyfouse
  • Jason

    Been a Mike Adams fan for years. OF COURSE he was denied tenure. Is anyone who’s read about his loo-loo colleagues surprised?

    Bottom line: Academia is for leftists. Want diversity? Have to look elsewhere. Prof. Adams is far, far too good for that toxic milieu. Kudos to him for wanting to stay and help change the system, but it is a rare thing for a brood of vipers to transmogrify into a flock of doves.

    • Dave

      He wasn’t denied tenure, he has tenure. He was denied promotion to full professor.

      • Jason

        thx–you’re right, there is a difference

  • Jason

    Bigger question: Why in the world do our tax dollars support lunatics like Miller-Young? Let her study pornography or man-hating lesbianism or whatever it is she spends her time doing, but let her do it on her own dime.

    Parents, for goodness’ sake (literally), stop paying tuition to these yahoos!

    • Bart

      Better yet, don’t let her do that crap at all. Go stick her on an ice flow and be done with her and her kind.

  • kid_you_not

    I am more conservative than just about anyone but to react that way when the student made a statement is not a credit to conservatives. How can anyone deny US foreign policy was to blame? They didn’t pick us at random, you know. And then there is the official story which states our support of Israel, a terror state in these people’s back yards, was a motivating factor.

    • james doesky

      Coming from a Methodist……You (kid you not) reveal your typical leftist Jew-hatred when you call Israel a terrorist state. Just stay in your basement and continue your pumping to pictures of Arafat.

  • Ex-Oligarch

    Oh great, let’s get the court system involved in second-guessing academic promotion decisions.

    • jonathanzacharias

      hahaha excellent point

  • jonathanzacharias

    i thought maybe i would be swayed after reading this but i still think adams is just a crybaby and righties make a big mistake holding this guy up as a victim. maybe he’s a total asshole. maybe UNC doesn’t like cons or christians. sack up, buttercup, you’re a damn doctor. get a life.

    • CCBanks

      YEAH! What right does this jack-wagon have to his own opinion!

  • garyfouse

    As a part-time teacher at UC Irvine (Ext) who considers himself, pro-Israel and pro-American, I have attended many of the anti-Israel events on our campus over the years to videotape them, document them, report on them, and participate in the q and a. It is easy to get involved in exchanges, and I have exchanged some unflattering words with certain people at times over the years. What is important, however, is that teachers should respect freedom of speech and avoid confrontations with students. This teacher failed to do that. Do I think she should go to jail for what she allegedly did? No, but I do think the university needs to take some sort of punitive action if the accusations bear out.

    • ahad_ha_amoratsim

      What part of the article suggests that he does not respect freedom of speech?

      The part where he told a student that the student’s writing is protected by the Constitution? Isn’t there reason to think that the university decided that Professor Adams’ writings were endangering donations by exposing foolish and possibly unlawful behavior on the part of the administration?

    • CCBanks

      So you don’t think that she should go to jail FOR ASSAULTING A STUDENT???

      • garyfouse

        From what I saw in the video, it was a shoving match. How much time do you want for her?

  • CCBanks

    This has been going on for a long time and it’s even worse than the article suggests. A couple of years ago BEN STEIN (yes THAT Ben Stein) did a documentary titled “EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed” in which he chronicled the PURGING of the institutions of higher learning of ANYONE who BELIEVED not only in the Judeo-Christian “God” but merely of anyone who believed in the rather innocuous “Intelligent Design”. Here it is for FREE!

  • Jimmie the Greek

    She lied to the police regarding student theft of the sign. The video shows that a couple of girls were carrying the sign back to the prof’s office, not the prof. You can also see their faces in the video elevator scuffle. Why are they not being prosecuted?

    It is a felony to lie to the police.

  • Jimmie the Greek

    I doubt very seriously the prof is pregnant. She made other lies to the police in her interview (not a good move, kiddies!). She said no students were involved in the theft when the video clearly shows an Asian chick and a Hispanic chick carrying the sign away.

    I expect her purported fetus will magically disappear. It was a rather feeble attempt to crown herself with ultimate victimhood by playing the Emotional Pregnant Woman card.

    But when she obviously ISN’T pregnant, she will have to make up some other victim-enhancing reason to save face. Perhaps the purported fetus had Down’s Syndrome and she had to abort. Perhaps the shock and outrage of the criminal charges by The Man caused her to spontaneously abort. Maybe an Evil Racist Email triggered the spontaneous abortion. Something.

  • Baron Von Zipper

    So this porno coach thinks that she has the right to not be offended? Please, show me the relevant parts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.