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Professor who compared Scott Walker to Hitler is teaching a course on ‘scholar activism’


Sara Goldrick-Rab, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, caused a firestorm last month when she publicly compared her governor, Republican Scott Walker, to Adolf Hitler in a tweet.

She poured fuel on the flames by tweeting at incoming freshmen who were Walker supporters, encouraging them not to attend the school because of Walker’s education funding policies. Then, she apologized.

Now she’s promoting a class she’s teaching this fall on “scholar activism.”

The graduate seminar will “explore the biographies and narratives of a diverse array of scholar activists, examine the sociopolitical and economic forces shaping their work, and consider what they have achieved and why,” according to the syllabus.

Students will be required to create a Twitter account if they don’t have one and follow a class-specific hashtag. Goldrick-Rab includes this ominous warning about “commitment”:

You are enrolled for reasons that are both clear and unclear, and you’ll discover more about your own objectives as we move through the semester. All I require of you is honesty and commitment. … If your commitment wavers, we will all feel it and I will ask you about it.

Students will “take turns leading” interactions with guest speakers, write blog posts and interview a scholar activist of their choosing for the class project. Though Goldrick-Rab described the scholars the class will consider as “diverse,” the academics she suggests for the class project all appear to be politically progressive.

And though the guest speaker list includes the celebrated UW-Madison Professor Donald Downs, a champion of academic free speech against politically progressive predations, it has a notable absence: Professor John McAdams of nearby Marquette University.

For more than a decade McAdams has run the conservative blog Marquette Warrior, which aims to expose what he sees as the underlying rot at the Jesuit school. He’s currently fighting for his job after exposing a fellow instructor who told a student he wasn’t allowed to openly disagree with gay marriage – at a Jesuit school – in class.

McAdams is a “scholar activist” by any definition. Professor Downs has even publicly defended McAdams as Marquette tries to revoke his tenure without due process:

Third, the topic addressed in Professor McAdams’ blog commentary addresses an important issue in higher education today: the status of intellectual diversity and free thought on campus. Numerous supporters and practitioners of higher education have expressed serious misgivings about the way in which improperly expansive harassment policies can stifle free discussion of sensitive intellectual and moral topics. Professor McAdams’ critique in this case dealt with this important concern.

Considering that several of Goldrick-Rab’s guest speakers are coming from as far away as San Francisco and New York, getting a prominent conservative scholar less than two hours away would seem eminently doable – and a great opportunity for students to hear a lesser-known perspective.

We’ve reached out to Goldrick-Rab and McAdams to see if an offer was made, or if McAdams would accept an offer to speak to Goldrick-Rab’s class.

UPDATE: Goldrick-Rab told The College Fix that she wasn’t aware of McAdams and his plight at Marquette, and agreed he would be good example of a conservative scholar-activist to address her class. She has personally reached out to him with an invitation to speak.

Read the syllabus.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.