“Issues in Criminal Justice,” a freshman-level course at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, is usually taught by an overtly political leftist. Come January, however, students enrolled in the class are going to be introduced to what the modern-day college campus considers radical: conservative thought.
Thanks to Townhall columnist and criminology professor Dr. Mike Adams, 70 young, impressionable minds will be exposed to the abortion issue, gun control, Black Lives Matter, the death penalty and more through a conservative lens, with required reading by John R. Lott Jr., Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Heather Mac Donald, to name just a few.
“The last three years since the election there’s been a hyperpoliticization of the classroom,” Adams tells Townhall, noting the sharp increase in complaints he’s received from students about professors in the Sociology and Criminology Department going on political tangents in class. “I am going to give them an opportunity to actually hear the other side, not a caricature of the other side.”
While the course is different than anything he’s done in his 26 years of teaching, regular Townhall readers know that outside the classroom he’s been a vocal defender of conservative principles on this site for nearly two decades.
What they may not be as familiar with, however, is his journey getting there.
“I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t a leftist atheist when I came [to UNCW], there’s no possible way they would’ve accepted me,” he said before describing three life events that helped shape him into the outspoken Christian conservative he is today.
The first was hearing about prison conditions in South America from an Ecuadorian girlfriend he had in the ‘90s. So appalled by what he learned, he arranged to do a teaching exchange in Ecuador to try to get inside of a prison to see for himself whether they were as bad as they had been chalked up to be.
“I was the guy that had the view that you’re not supposed to judge other cultures by the standards of your own,” he said. “My worldview just kind of exploded.”
By his previous reasoning, “liberating the Nazi concentration camps was wrong if it’s wrong to impose our values upon other cultures.”
“I mean think about it, it is just so ridiculous,” he continued, “so I had this shock-out-of-atheism moment.”
Fast forward three and a half years. Adams is on death row with Johnny Paul Penry, who, at the time, was set to be executed in less than two weeks. During the three-hour interview, Penry read John 3:16 to him: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
“I had this moment of being sort of embarrassed that this mentally retarded murderer and rapist had learned to read and write and read the Bible and I had never done it,” he said, noting Penry has an IQ of 53. “And I went through a study, just an intense study in 2000, which led to the conversion.”
There would be one more turning point in his life that pushed Adams into becoming the vocal critic of leftism he is.
Adams described falling into a free speech controversy after 9/11 with a former student who also happened to be the daughter of an administrator. After an argument through email, she tried to prosecute Adams under the email use policy.
The university went through his private emails and then lied about it, which Adams says “totally lit a fire under me” and was the start of the outspoken defender of free speech and other conservative principles you see today.
Not surprisingly, the 2001 incident with the university wouldn’t be the last legal battle UNCW and Adams fought.
After seven and a half years in court, a federal jury in 2014 found the school retaliated against Adams, denying him a promotion to full professor, over his social and political views expressed on Townhall and in speeches.
When he’s not fighting the university in court, Adams is busy taking on leftists in his department, the student body, and beyond.
And he’s been unafraid to do so in a no-holds-barred way—naming names and publishing emails he receives, for example.
As one of his editors at Townhall, I’ve long wondered what it must be like to walk down the hall and see those very same colleagues who were just the Marxist feminist subject du jour in his column.
“There’s a tension at all times but most people kind of just smile and walk by,” he explained—but all have been too cowardly to ever confront him about what he’s written.
Behind closed doors is a different story, though.
“It would be crazy, I’d be sitting in my office, door shut, they wouldn’t know I’d be in there, and you’d hear a feminist talking about me, excoriating me,” he says, describing what it’s like in his department. “I can hear her voice going right through the wall. … I just figured out they were just dangerous. And I had to take a two fisted ... approach with them in order to survive.”
He continued: “My goodness, you should have seen the emails when I went up for full professor and the things they write privately. I have no moral problem whatsoever with naming names and going after them in no uncertain terms. I’m totally comfortable walking down the halls, smiling at all times because I don’t operate the way they do … anonymously and in secret.”
While he’s taken the combative approach in writing, students are surprised when they take his courses.
“They realize my writing style and my teaching style are not the same by any stretch of the imagination, which is good,” he said laughing.
No matter where he's speaking, though, Adams has influenced an untold number of people, particularly on the issue of abortion. He knows because people tell him all the time. Some even approach him in public to let him know his columns have pushed them to go from being pro-life to becoming pro-life activists. Others, meanwhile, have acknowledged his courses helped them take those first steps away from progressivism.
As he wraps up his final years teaching at UNCW, he expressed deep concern for everything from the student culture on college campuses to the professoriate. The “classical liberal professor” exists no more, replaced instead by a rising number of millennial professors who lack a basic understanding of free speech, he explained.
“I don’t know how any conservative professor is going to be able to survive on a secular campus … as a result of that shift away from liberalism,” he said. “We have got to stop using the term liberal bias. It’s not bias and it’s not liberalism. It’s something much deeper and fundamentally flawed than that.”
In life after UNCW, Adams hopes to continue speaking out, but on a much broader scale. If his track record is any indication, he’ll continue to change the hearts and minds of those who hear his message, inspiring and equipping the next generation of conservatives to succeed in today’s secular milieu.