More on Professor Cronon

Earlier this week, I wrote about the emerging exchange between University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Bill Cronon and the Wisconsin GOP. Cronon publicly said some things the GOP leadership disagreed with. The GOP's response was to demand that UW give them access to all of Cronon's campus e-mail since the start of the year. The rationale was that Cronon was using the state's electrons to talk smack about them.

Wisconsin (and UW) politics are really complicated at the moment. UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin is obviously heavily involved in any number of policy debates with any number of bodies. In other words, I wasn't sure if or how she would weigh in on the matter of Professor Cronon's e-mail.

She's just weighed in. You should read what she has to say.

Essentially, UW will comply with the open records request, but no correspondence with students (FERPA!), and no personal business.

Then, she cuts to the chase:
Scholars and scientists pursue knowledge by way of open intellectual exchange. Without a zone of privacy within which to conduct and protect their work, scholars would not be able to produce new knowledge or make life-enhancing discoveries. Lively, even heated and acrimonious debates over policy, campus and otherwise, as well as more narrowly defined disciplinary matters are essential elements of an intellectual environment and such debates are the very definition of the Wisconsin Idea.
Having every exchange of ideas subject to public exposure puts academic freedom in peril and threatens the processes by which knowledge is created.
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.

So yeah, Wisconsin GOP. Have fun with those e-mails.

P.S. Ouch.

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