On Thursday, July 23, University of North Carolina Wilmington professor Mike Adams was found dead in his home in North Carolina. Adams had become the subject of controversy in recent years for his outspoken conservative political views, particularly those on abortion. On Monday, the New Hanover Sheriff’s Office announced that the cause of death was suicide.
Like most conservative professors at liberal universities, Mike Adams was hated by his administration. Aged 55 at the time of his death, the criminology professor had spent the last two full decades of his life making himself a thorn in the university’s side. His bold opinions and provocative comments online earned him a reputation as a free speech warrior on and off campus. The same earned him endless animosity from the university administration.
In 2006, UNCW denied Adams a promotion in his professorship. Adams, having all the appropriate credentials, suspected the administration was denying his promotion on account of his political views, so he took the university to court. In 2014, with the aid of Alliance Defending Freedom, Adams won the seven-year legal battle after suing UNCW for violating his First Amendment rights. The university was subsequently obliged to yield Adams his promotion, as well as $50,000 in back pay and over $600,000 in legal fees. Adams’ quarrel with the university continued without respite until June of this year, when the university announced that Adams had agreed to retire early, on August 1, over one final settlement of $500,000.
Mike Adams was a man who said what he believed, not caring what his university or anyone else might think. What’s more, he stood up for himself, not bowing to UNCW’s maltreatment but taking them to court and suing them for violating his constitutional rights. For this, conservatives around the nation have hailed him a free speech warrior and a champion of First Amendment rights.
For that same resilience and dogged determination, Adams has made no small number of enemies on the other side of the aisle. He has been labeled “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” “Islamophobic,” and “misogynistic” too many times to count. On June 5 of this year, UNCW acknowledged and defended the professor’s right to speak his mind, but not without also expressing their “disgust” at his “vile,” “hateful,” and “hurtful” comments.
Much of the controversy surrounding Adams’ speech stemmed from his Twitter account, from which he posted his unfiltered thoughts on a wide range of political and social issues. A full vindication of Adams’ social media record would be impossible to attempt in this short format. But one need not look far into his feed to see that these allegations of bigotry are absurd and politically motivated; they seek to silence Adams for his conservative opinions. For his opposition to abortion, he was called a misogynist. For his skepticism of Black Lives Matter, he was called racist. For his criticism of Islam, he was called xenophobic.
The reason why he was so passionately hated is that he just wouldn’t be silent. For 20 years, he stood his ground in the face of bogus accusations from students and unfair treatment from the university, refusing to apologize for what he believed was right.
How did Adams cope with all this hatred and prejudice against him? He threw his head back and laughed. Since 2012, Adams had been promoting and selling his own unique merchandise, t-shirts sporting the phrase, “I Hate Mike Adams.” Concerning his entrepreneurial endeavor, Adams remarked comically, “The ‘I Hate Mike Adams’ t-shirt will replace the need for anonymous hate speech on RateMyProfessors.com. Everyone can come out of the closet at once and start contributing to my early retirement. And that’s a cause that both Mike Adams and his haters can get behind!”
The world has lost a great defender of free speech, not to mention a terrific sense of humor, in Mike Adams. He refused to back down in the face of pressure from his administration and, through his seven-year lawsuit, alerted the nation to just how much discrimination conservatives can face from universities. Whatever other absurd accusations may be leveled against him, Mike Adams was a courageous advocate for free speech with a true heart for his country, and for that he deserves recognition.