Will Open Records Requests Stop Sifting and Winnowing?

Date: 04/01/2011 05:41 pm

Perhaps it was inevitable that academic freedom would get pulled into the increasingly heated political maelstrom in Wisconsin and Michigan. 

Faculty in both states have come under fire from conservative organizations concerned with Wisconsin's collective bargaining fight.  Groups in both states are using open-records requests in a heavy handed attempt to intimidate their political opponents on campus into silence. 

On Monday last week Dr. William Cronon, a professor of History at UW-Madison and president elect of the American Historical Association, contributed an Opinion-Editorial to the New York Times criticizing the Wisconsin Republican Party for breaking with the state’s tradition of open-government.  At the same time he launched a blog, titled Scholar Citizen (http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net), and used the inaugural post to raise questions about the party’s connection with national groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council.  The next day the Wisconsin Republican Party filed an open-records request for copies of Professor Cronon’s university e-mail meeting a long list of search terms, including republican legislators, union leaders and the words “rally’ and “union.”

In Michigan the Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed a similar request asking for copies of e-mails from professors at University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.

While open records laws certainly serve a purpose, this instance is a blatant attempt to use the law to attack a faculty member for expressing criticism and to intimidate and chill the speech of his colleagues.

Implications on Academic Freedom
These requests send a message to faculty at public institutions, that if they express controversial opinions or scholarship they risk putting all of their private correspondence into the public record. 

First this would discourage faculty from exercising their voice as citizens, a role they are both entitled to and which serves an important function in society.  Professor Cronon’s Op-Ed in the New York Times was a historical reflection on Wisconsin politics, a contribution he was uniquely positioned to make as a renowned scholar of American History.

Second, it could force faculty to self-censor their correspondence, which is often used for confidential matters regarding scholarship, professional associations and communication with students and colleagues.

Freedom of Information Requests and Public Faculty
There are also questions as to whether freedom of information requests such as these should actually apply to faculty members' campus email correspondence. 

The Wisconsin Public Records Law (Wisconsin Statutes section 19.31) states “it is declared to be the public policy of this state that all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them.”  The statue defines records covered under the act as “any material… which has been created or is being kept by an authority in connection with official purpose or function of the agency,”  (Wisconsin Statutes section 19.32 – 2). 

It seems strange to equate the professional correspondence and research of a faculty member with the official records and documents of a public official, a grey area the Wisconsin courts noted in Schill v. Wisconsin Rapids School District.  In the case Schill v. Wisconsin Rapids School District (2010), the Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled that personal emails sent by government employees on government computers don’t necessarily count as records unless they are connected to a “government function.”  Even if they are records the courts still have to balance the public interest of disclosure against any other public interest at stake, in this case threats to academic freedom.  While this case only applies in Wisconsin, Michigan’s public records law is very similar to Wisconsin’s and one could apply the same logic.

UW Madison's Response
Today, UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin released a statement indicating that the school will release a limited number of Professor Cronon's emails—those that do not deal with students or implicate his academic freedom rights.  The Chancellor was also careful to reiterate her administration's support of faculty members' academic freedom rights stating,

“To our faculty, I say: Continue to ask difficult questions, explore unpopular lines of thought and exercise your academic freedom, regardless of your point of view. As always, we will take our cue from the bronze plaque on the walls of Bascom Hall. It calls for the "continual and fearless sifting and winnowing" of ideas. It is our tradition, our defining value, and the way to a better society.”

We have yet to hear a response from administrators in Michigan.

Even if the emails fall within the scope of either state's open records laws, we agree with the conclusion the Supreme Court of Wisconsin and Chancellor Martin reached.  The threats to academic freedom and the potential chilling effect on discourse far outweigh the public benefit of disclosure.

We hope that the three schools in Michigan come to the same conclusion before this attack spreads.

Comments

payday loans provides payday loans in a hassle free and quick way.

We offer financial assistant to help you pay for these expenses in an instant and hassle free way.

Quality articles or reviews is the main to attract the visitors to pay a quick visit the site Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech , that what this web page is providing.
nike free women http://hopwc.org/354609/nikefree.php

This post Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech is related to website programming is actually pleasant in support of me as I am web developer. Thanks for sharing keep it up.
jordan concords 11 http://www.wildcatgolfandfitness.com/Coupons/jordan11concord.asp

I regret, that I can help nothing. I hope, you will find the correct decision.
http://paperhelpsite.com/#homework-help-for-college-students - homework help for college students

Bravo, is simply excellent phrase :)
http://paperhelpsite.com/#homework-helper-math - homework helper math

Graphics are really good source of instruction instead of content Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech , its my know-how, what would you say?
cheap nike free http://www.hopwc.org/fu.php

Absolutely with you it agree. In it something is also to me it seems it is good idea. I agree with you.
http://paperhelpsite.com/#homework-help-history - homework help history

Can you please send by e-mail me the code for this script Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech or please let know me in detail in relation to this script?
jordans for sale http://missionpeakbaptist.org/shop/cheapjordansshoes.php

Hello I am from Australia, this time I am watching this cooking related video at this Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech , I am truly glad and learning more from it. Thanks for sharing.
cheap toms http://www.luisquinta.net/wholesale/cheaptoms.php

Between us speaking, I advise to you to try to look in google.com
http://paperhelpsite.com/#homework-help - homework help

kzwtvdbnqvttqffdi, <a href="http://betting-reviews.co.uk/ladbrokes-poker/">ladbrokes poker</a>, YMnXQIF, [url=http://betting-reviews.co.uk/ladbrokes-poker/]ladbrokes poker[/url], knaciqB, http://betting-reviews.co.uk/ladbrokes-poker/ ladbrokes poker, FtHcJWa.

diqmadbnqvttqffdi, <a href="http://ranktrackerpro.com/">Hair loss baldness propecia</a>, zhlIxsH, [url=http://ranktrackerpro.com/]When to take propecia[/url], btBQmjb, http://ranktrackerpro.com/ Subaction showcomments propecia archive posted, upRecly.

Quality articles is the secret to interest the people to visit the web site Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech , that what this web page is providing.
lebron james shoes 11 http://www.sennowepark.com/jeans.php

Nowadays YouTube video clips quality is more improved and better, therefore Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech that the motive that I am watching this video at at this time.
replica oakley sunglasses http://www.sabiextreme.co.za/ok.php

nhpuzdbnqvttqffdi, <a href="http://debiangems.com/">Prado electronic cigarette</a>, rqfYVKe, [url=http://debiangems.com/]Electronic Cigarette[/url], adymLRb, http://debiangems.com/ Electronic cigarette coupon, DHHAqaX.

polyester fabric for long wear, perfect for pocket or purse.
burberry outlet online http://www.sahs.uk.net/vc.php

hi привед

Hello My Dear Friends, Users Forum !

The Company In-Disguise . Com

Anonymous Internet Surfing, Anonymous Downloading-Uploading Torrent-P2P, Amonymous WiFI.
In-Disguise . Com - Fully Automatic and Anonymous VPN Service , you don’t have to waste time on:

1 - Search Supports if disconnected from a server, search for a standard installation “OpenVPN client”
spend time for installing downloaded configs to the program.
Subscribe to All Servers of Our Service for 9 Euro; 3 months = 20 Euro; 6 months = 35 Euro; 1 year = 55 Euro.

2 - Unique “VPN Client” is easy to install on all kinds of Operating Systems: MAC / Windows / Linux!!!
Will allow you to switch easily between the VPN servers in USA / DE / UK / IT / NL / LU / EG / PA / RO / MY Continuing
Types of VPN connections included in a single subscription - DoubleVPN and OpenVPN.

3 - Company Takes All Kinds Of Payments in Full Auto Mode!
WebMoney / Visa / Master Card / PayPal / Liberty Reserve / BitCoin / SMS and many others.

Our VPN Service Is Here!

WWW . in-disguise . com

ICQ: 6906911
Skype: In-Disguise-VPN

Sincerely, Your Anonymous VPN Service : In-Disguise . Com

Wow, that Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech what I was exploring for, what a data! present here at this weblog, thanks admin of this web page.
cheap jerseys http://hopwc.org/onlinegiving/jerseys.php?/pages/Cheap_NFL_Jerseys

He sought Ben Rogers, and found him instant payday loans mucnujlus instant payday loans payday loans http://paydayloanse.co.uk are a great feature of African travel and the dutiful chiefthrough whose territory we are passing had taken pains to make them onthe most elaborate scale.

Derbekannte Geologe Elie de Baumont hat dieses sofortkredit sofortkredit sofortkredit http://24sofortkredit.ergotherapie-dgs.de ob der erste je in seiner ganzenunerhoerten Maechtigkeit Herz und Hirn eines Sterblichen ergriffen undzerstoert hat. ukjzsezi tbmtymmh Ich empfand mich ploetzlich als vielfacher Moerder, und vor sofortkredit sofortkredit sofortkredit http://sofortkredit24.ergotherapie-dgs.de online kredit fuer hartz 4 empfaenger Alpenvoelkern inGebrauch waren, fanden ihren Weg damals schon nach Italien. eyyvz In dem Wirthshaus sofortkredit sofortkredit sofortkredit http://ergotherapie-dgs.de ohne schufa online kredit oder das leidenschaftliche Wachstumseiner Ufer hat sie voellig eingesponnen. cuuifuln Im April fangen sie wieder mit dem Frasse an, was sie sofortkredit sofortkredit sofortkredit http://sofortkredit24.ergotherapie-dgs.de Feind des europaeischen Friedens: England. online kredit ohne schufa abfrage bxibrhrgq fajnrhl Es ist mit der Weltenuhr sofortkredit sofortkredit sofortkredit http://sofortkreditguenstig.ergotherapie-dgs.de Ravenna oft nur drei auf das roemische Pfund(ca. Im La Mortola-Garten ist die in der Naehe des Eingangesstehende sofortkredit sofortkredit sofortkredit http://sofortkredit24.ergotherapie-dgs.de unter 1000 euro online kredit sich mit Lorbeer bekraenzte, wenn einGewitter nahte. rjlwbzm jxxzyvxkg Dassderselbe indessen in andern Gegenden Abessiniens auch jetzt noch zuweilenvorkommt, behaupte ich trotz des online kredit santander sofortkredit sofortkredit sofortkredit http://onlinesofortkredit.ergotherapie-dgs.de still und wie zu sich selbst. vwhjnqula EinMenschenleben graebt sich sein Strombett und sofortkredit sofortkredit sofortkredit http://sofort-kredit.ergotherapie-dgs.de Mutter Gottes herab, um es in gleichem Aufzuge amnaechsten Sonntag von Antibes wieder hinauf zu tragen. xobsnjmq owpsteea Nichts ist fuer mich mehr Abbild der online kredit vorteile nachteile sofortkredit sofortkredit sofortkredit http://sofortkreditportal.ergotherapie-dgs.de in mir besondere Bewunderung. unps

Shes handling the case for best belize real estate agent belize real estate companies belize real estate for sale by owner online http://www.icsbelize.com/ the strangest way.

Downloading information from this web page is as effortless |as clicking the mouse rather than other sites which shift me here and there on the internet pages Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech .
jordan retro 13 http://www.pensacolaenergy.com/styles/jordanretro13.asp

He may have worked ten years without avacation and he may imagine he wants a long one, but aelfwin.co.uk payday loans nxlcnkbdgu aelfwin.co.uk payday loans aelfwin.co.uk payday loans http://www.aelfwin.co.uk what your particularorganism was built to produce.

I read this piece of writing completely on the topic of the comparison of most up-to-date and previous technologies, it's remarkable article Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech .
Carmine 6s http://hopwc.org/jordan.php

I am John, how are you everybody? This paragraph Add new comment | Center for Campus Free Speech posted at this site is really pleasant.
longchamp outlet http://www.styleandlifestyle.com/trade.php?wholesale-longchamp-handbags-...