“Republicans in Wisconsin are seeking to reverse civic traditions that for more than a century have been among the most celebrated achievements not just of their state, but of their own party as well.” — William Cronon, “Wisconsin’s Radical Break,” op-ed, The New York Times, Published: March 21, 2011
What follows from this New York Times' op-ed about the historical context of the political conflict in Wisconsin, is a fascinating collision between public's right to know and academic freedom at a public university. Whichever side you're on in the underlying political conflict, here's a topic worth your momentary attention. Please share your thoughts.
My own sense is that this is another example where certain kinds of publicly supported information should not be made widely available under most circumstances. Florida went through a similar challenge this century when the Orlando Sentinel sought access to autopsy photographs of Dale Earnhardt¹.
Excerpted from “Wisconsin's most dangerous professor; Why are Republicans desperate to see Bill Cronon's emails? Because ideas and history matter” BY ANDREW LEONARD, “How The World Works” (blog), Salon, FRIDAY, MAR 25, 2011 15:12 ET
[T]here are consequences for taking a stand. As surely nearly everyone who has been following developments in Wisconsin already knows, the Republican Party of Wisconsin has filed an open records request demanding access to any emails [University of Wisconsin Professor William] Cronon has sent or received since Jan. 1 containing the search terms "Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell."
The obvious goal is to find something damaging or embarrassing to Cronon -- although judging by Cronon's account, smoking guns seem unlikely to be lying around in plain sight. (Eight of the names referenced in the request belong to the eight Republican state senators targeted by Democrats for recall.) …“Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great State University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.” — Board of Regents in 1894²
Professor Cronon has responded to the Republican Party of Wisconsin open records request.
The first entry in William Cronon's “Scholar as Citizen” blog.Excerpted from “Abusing Open Records to Attack Academic Freedom” By William Cronon, “Scholar as Citizen” (blog), March 24, 2011
[T]he Wisconsin Republican Party has issued an Open Records Law request for access to my emails since January 1 in response to a blog entry I posted on March 15 concerning the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in influencing recent legislation in this state and across the country. I find this a disturbing development, and hope readers will bear with me as I explain the strange circumstances in which I find myself as a result. …
See Also: My Worlds Collide | Talking Points MemoExcerpted from “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here)” By William Cronon, “Scholar as Citizent” (blog), March 15, 2011
[W]ho’s really behind recent Republican legislation in Wisconsin and elsewhere? …
Here’s my preliminary answer. …
The most important group, I’m pretty sure, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and (surprise, surprise) Paul Weyrich. Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft “model bills” that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)
If you’re as impressed by these numbers as I am, I’m hoping you’ll agree with me that it may be time to start paying more attention to ALEC and the bills its seeks to promote. …