Old friend Dan Kennedy posted this several days ago on his essential Media Nation blog:
As a journalist, my inclination is to support public-records laws that guarantee maximum disclosure. As an ordinary citizen, it’s sometimes unclear to me exactly how far those laws ought to go.
You may have heard that Wisconsin Republicans have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain private emails written by or to a history professor named William Cronon, whose blog has become a focal point in the battle over the rights of public-employee unions in that state.
Cronon may have to comply because he teaches at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a state university and thus subject to Wisconsin’s strict public-records laws.
Dan’s verdict, in light of traditional academic freedom standards:
I’m not sure what the answer is. It seems to me that some officials higher up the food chain ought to be subject to FOIA laws, but that ordinary employees should not.
Now comes this new request, reported in Wednesday’s New York Times, from a Michigan advocacy group:
Group Seeks Labor E-Mails by Michigan Professors
A conservative research group in Michigan has issued a far-reaching public records request to the labor studies departments at three public universities in the state, seeking any e-mails involving the Wisconsin labor turmoil.
The group, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, declined to explain why it was making the Freedom of Information Act request for material from professors at the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State University. But several professors who received the records request, which was first reported by Talking Points Memo on Tuesday, said it appeared to be an attempt to intimidate or embarrass professors who are sympathetic to organized labor.
Sure looks that way, combined with the Wisconsin FOIA request.
Now all that’s left is to choose a mascot for Thug U (pat. pending).