Wisconsin's response to FOIA request for Cronon e-mails

Via Shakesville and Scholar as Citizen, I saw yesterday afternoon that University of Wisconsin Chancellor Biddy Martin has responded with a letter that says they have complied with the request, but she concludes the letter with a strong defense of academic freedom.  If you read the letter from the university counsel’s office, it stands up for William Cronon and his use of his e-mail account.  (It also explains why they’re not turning over a lot of his e-mails:  FERPA, privacy rights, etc.)  Read the whole thing hereCronon’s takeaway:

The second is an eloquent statement by UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin articulating the principles at stake in this case. In it, she affirms the university’s commitment to honoring the Wisconsin Public Records Law while making the strongest possible argument that academic freedom must be taken into account when responding to open records requests lest the freedom of inquiry and freedom of thought at a great public research university be threatened or eroded. 

I will be writing more fully in a future post concerning what I’ve learned about the challenge of balancing freedom of information with freedom of inquiry, but I don’t want to waste any time in encouraging everyone to read these two documents carefully.

I could not be more grateful for the thought and care that Biddy Martin and UW-Madison attorneys have put into crafting these responses–and I am very proud of this university for continuing to defend the great traditions of the Wisconsin Idea and of the “sifting and winnowing” plaque that I discussed in my earlier blog entry (the “sifting and winnowing” section is toward the end).

From where I’m sitting, the two documents below can proudly take their place beside that wonderful sentence from the 1894 report of the UW Board of Regents:

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.

In other news:  apparently, Tenured Radical and someone named “Ann Little” are the only women in the historical profession who have any opinions at all about the Bill Cronon FOIA request.  Reading over that list of names at HNN was like reading the list of linked articles at Real Clear Politics–all dudes, all the time.  Oh, the *occasional* Peggy or Megan or Ruth will slip in at Real Clear Politics, but the homogeneity of the opinion journalism that gets promoted and re-linked on the world-wide non-peer reviewed internets is really something.  I guess women bloggers really just have nothing to add to this conversation.  (And as I conclude this post I learn that Notorious, Ph.D. scooped me on the Biddy Martin letter–her post was up last night!)

0 thoughts on “Wisconsin's response to FOIA request for Cronon e-mails

  1. Ironically, when I click your link to HNN, it invites me to explore nursing options. Does it know my gender and think I would be more suited to a female-dominated career?


  2. I note that you and TR have real first names attached to their blogs, as do all but one of the male bloggers. Perhaps the Powers That Link want to avoid non-pseudonymous authors.

    Which makes me wonder, in turn: what the gender balance of pseudonymity is in the blogging world?


  3. Thanks for the linky-love, Historiann. As we all know, Blogging While Female is a major impediment to being taking seriously in the world-wide non-peer reviewed internets — and elsewhere. Paws up to Cronon for all he has said and done with his moment in the sun, but should we pause and wonder if a Professor Wilma Cronon would have commanded the same attention? Discuss.


  4. I’ve been wondering exactly that, Roxie dear. What if it had been Susan Johnson or Linda Kerber or Antoinette Burton?

    I guess it will be an eventful AHA presidency for Cronon.


  5. I was amused by the HNN ad for “nurses such as myself.” The list there is rendered even more irritating by it’s title: “important” comments on the Cronon case. Sheesh.


  6. It’s worth noting that Cronon trained Susan Johnson (another Wisconsinite by birth who moved home) along with a whole generation of women historians of the West and the Environment. And his women students have done as well as his male students which, I think, is a bit unusual in the dude-i-verse.


  7. HNN being a group project with multiple authors, the d00d-heaviness of that list is the sole responsibility of its author, Ralph Luker. (I’d bother to post a comment on the HNN story linking to the posts from Notorious Ph.D., Bardiac, or Roxie’s World, but HNN’s layout places comments so far below-the-fold that those links would be unlikely to be noticed anyway.)

    If readers would like to contact the HNN editors, their email address is on the article-submission-guidelines page. You might also read (all the way to the bottom of the) HNN About Us page for more direct contact information and indirect data on staff/intern/advisory-board demographics.

    As for “what if William were Wilma,” I can’t imagine Cronon will be the last prominent historian to face a FOIA request over the next few years. I’m all for pointing out the effects of institutionalized gender biases, but I still can’t say I’m eager to find out the answer to that question.


  8. I share the complaint of Nicole and Susan about the obnoxious HNN ad for nursing programs. It irritates male and female readers alike. HNN management, not Cliopatria, is responsible for it. Notorious PhD is probably onto something in noting the list’s bias in favor of named bloggers, but despite Historiann’s reading, it doesn’t claim to encompass all important discussions of Cronon. The last time I did a survey of female history bloggers, about half of them blogged anonymously or pseudonymously. That was several years ago, however. I’m not sure whether that is still the case or not.


  9. I’m only surprised that someone hasn’t used this event to ask “where are the women bloggers?” I know that I’m not helping the numbers. I used to blog pseudonymously but now my bylined blog’s in abeyance (I have a crappy platform and I’m too busy to wrestle the code into compliance on the back end).

    Regarding the HNN ad? I’m avoiding HNN entirely now. Interstitials so wildly off-topic are just not on.


  10. Ralph brings up an interesting point:

    The last time I did a survey of female history bloggers, about half of them blogged anonymously or pseudonymously.

    We’ve talked often about “blogging while female” (our hostess even participated in a print roundtable on the subject) and about psuedonymity vs. … what? nymity? But have we talked about the area where the two overlap? Are female bloggers really more likely to be pseudonymous? If so, why? I could make guesses, but I’d just be talking out my ass.

    Another (possibly gendered) point: Ralph once contacted me to ask me to blog for HNN, specifically because they wanted more female voices. I declined, because, frankly, I couldn’t handle even the small amount of more work this would entail (Okay, and also because I wanted to be able to indulge at will in snark, or insecurity, or any one of my other many character defects). I felt I needed to concentrate on the core aspects of my job: write, teach, and do service that I could get credit for.

    Do men just have more feckin’ time? If so, taking some of that back for ourselves should be high on the priority list for the coming revolution.


  11. Thanks to Ralph for stopping by to comment.

    My take on HNN is that it is a fair representation of the American historical profession. It’s mostly a d00d thing, although political history is probably overrepresnted there given straight political history’s place in most history departments. (This is perhaps inevitable given the site’s interest in linking current American political events to history.) But most academic history depatments are dominated by social historians, and all of the elite graduate departments that I can think of are dominated by social historians (save Berkeley maybe, which has a thing for intellectual history.)

    HNN’s Rick Shenkman kindly e-mailed me back in 2008 shortly after this blog debuted to invite me to contribute anything I wanted to HNN at any time. I thanked him for his welcome to the blogosphere, but told him that 1) I preferred to go it alone and 2) that I was disturbed by the nasty, usually rightist tenor of the comments sections on most of the articles. So, I have to admit that I myself have contributed to HNN’s d00dliness because I don’t have the time or inclination to deal with that kind of a peanut gallery.

    I admit it that my commenters are a carefully selected (self-selected and Historiann-approved) crowd, and that it takes time and energy to encourage the kinds of commenters I like here. My bottom line is that it’s difficult enough to get taken seriously as a feminist woman scholar in my day job and professional life, so why would I want to continue to fight those battles in my blogging?

    As for the ads: for some reason, there’s an online M.A. in military history that keeps chasing me around the internets. I haven’t seen the nursing ads, but I have to admit that I just tune most of those out pretty automatically.


  12. Notorious–we were posting at the same time. I think you raise a great point about men’s time v. women’s time. It makes me recall a recent post on a feminist science blog–maybe some of you saw it (Zuska? Female Science Professor?)–in which the blogger made several concrete suggestions for “finding” women scientists and including them in conferences and grant review committees.

    One of her first suggestions was to look outside of faculty at R-1 institutions, because women scientists (like women scholars in general) tend not to get selected for the most prestigious jobs in the same numbers, and that they cluster at SLACs and regional unis. Of course, as most of us know all too well, folks at all but the most selective SLACs and non-R-1 unis have higher teaching loads, more student contact hours, heavier undergraduate advising responsibilities, etc.

    Long unsourced anecdote short: folks who have 3-3 and 4-4 teaching load maybe don’t have a lot of time left over for writing blog posts for other websites.


  13. Pingback: A Much More Supportive View of the Cronon FOI Response « The Art of Access

  14. Pingback: The New York Review of Books Weighs in On Cronon… « The Art of Access

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