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 here. Cronon’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!)