Friday, March 25, 2011

Republican Party of Wisconsin Seeks E-Mails From UW-Madison Professor William Cronon

This is fascinating.

The background's at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "
GOP seeks e-mails of UW-Madison professor." The state GOP wants History Professor William Cronon's e-mails --- those sent on university servers --- going back to January 1st. It's a legitimate open-records request, and the university also has a policy against the use of institutional resources for partisan purposes. I'd personally like to see Cronon's communications. I read his super long response to the party's request this morning: "Abusing Open Records to Attack Academic Freedom." Cronon published an op-ed at the New York Times last weekend: "Wisconsin's Radical Break." I read this at the time and was unsurprised by his progressivism. But check Cronon's blog post. He suggests that the GOP open-records request is pure intimidation, and perhaps it is. But I'd think anyone doing some serious writing and organizing on these issues would be exceedingly careful to segregate teaching and research functions (on university equipment) from political activism likely to raise questions of controversy. Ann Althouse writes on this, suggesting that she's careful to use private e-mail for political advocacy, although she posts a defense of Cronin from UW Chancellor Biddy Martin.

And on top of all this comes Nobel Prize-winning economist and blogging Princeton Professor Paul Krugman, "
Academic Intimidation" (via Memeorandum):
Cronon has a email address — but nobody, and I mean nobody, considers such academic email addresses something specially reserved for university business. Actually, according to Cronon he has been especially careful, maintaining a separate personal account — but nobody would have considered it out of the ordinary if he mingled personal correspondence with official business on the dot edu address. And no, the fact that he’s at a public university doesn’t change that: when my students take jobs at Berkeley or SUNY, they don’t imagine that they’re entering into a special fishbowl environment that they wouldn’t encounter at Georgetown or Haverford.

But then, we know perfectly well what’s going on here. Republicans aren’t looking for some abuse of Cronon’s position; they’re hoping to find some statement that can be quoted out of context to discredit him. At the very least, they hope that other academics will henceforth feel intimidated.
What I'm loving about this is not that Cronon's getting hassled, but the beautiful hypocrisy that's raised by the obvious counterfactual hypothesis: Had Cronon been a conservative professor and tea party activist, progressives would be cheering the perfect justice of a state Democratic Party open-records request. But Cronon's a big-time leftie, so the big guns like Paul Krugman are coming out in his defense. It's predictable and pathetic. And of course there's nothing secret about leftist professors and union organizers abusing public facilities for their political activities. Warner Todd Huston had a report this morning: "Michigan: Teachers Trying to Hide Union Activism in School Email Accounts."

At my college political communications on the district's server had long been routine, but after progressive faculty members successfully lobbied against my office bulletin board (to censor a GOP campaign bumper sticker), which later resulted in a full-blow investigation, I stopped looking the other way. Here's
the policy at the California Community College Chancellor's Office (via):
"The use of district resources to support or oppose ballot measures or candidates is restricted. The fundamental reason for the restriction is that public money cannot be used for partisan activities. Put another way, resources that have been obtained for the district's support from all taxpayers must not be used "to take sides." Therefore, district employee time, equipment, supplies, or other public resources may not be used in advocating for either side of a ballot measure or to support or defeat any candidate. These restrictions are largely set out in an article in the Education Code entitled "Political Activities of School Officers and Employees" that encompasses sections 7050 through 7058."
It pisses the hell out of my communist colleagues, but I'll no longer stand for the despicable double standards. It used to be live and let live regarding campus political activities. But it's to the point of intimidation now. Progressives are thugs --- especially union-backed college professors --- and I'm hardly one to take it lying down.

RELATED: See William Jacobson, "
Strange What Gets Them Excited in Wisconsin."