Professors and researchers might shy away from using their university-issued eMail accounts to discuss thorny political issues, turning instead to personal eMail, after a University of Wisconsin (UW) professor’s electronic exchanges were made public in accordance with a request from the state’s Republican Party.
UW history professor William Cronon came under scrutiny last month during Wisconsin lawmakers’ battle over legislation that would severely curb labor unions’ ability to collectively bargain. Cronon wrote a post for his blog, Scholar as Citizen, that questioned the origins of the union-busting bill.
Cronon also wrote a New York Times opinion piece critical of the Republican-backed legislation. Using Wisconsin’s Open Documents Law, conservative groups filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking eMail messages from Cronon’s UW account that mentioned key words in the labor union political fight, including “recall,” “collective bargaining,” “union,” and “rally.”
UW Chancellor Biddy Martin said in an April 1 statement that the school had handed over an undisclosed number of Cronon’s eMail messages in accordance with state law.