Prof. Cronon’s Political Palaver

by Candace de Russy

Prof. William Cronon has involved himself in political advocacy on behalf of the public employees of Wisconsin.

Writing in the New York Times, he makes the conservative argument that Republicans aim to change progressive institutions that have been in effect in Wisconsin for many decades (and so, in his opinion, should not change) and which Wisconsin pioneered. He also makes the disingenuous claim that Republicans were involved as much as Democrats in establishing progressive programs. 

After the Wisconsin GOP sent an open records request for Cronon’s e-mails, he complained on his blog that the GOP aims to inhibit his freedom of speech. 

Prof. Mitchell Langbert refutes Cronon’s objection as follows:

(1) he chose to involve himself in politics and the GOP’s response is a normal political tactic, (2) universities are ideological institutions that have unethically used public resources for political purposes, (3) Cronon and his allies at Wisconsin are the ones who have suppressed speech by excluding conservatives, (4) under Cronon’s theory that universities should be exempt from the  Wisconsin open records law, university professors should be free to function as partisan advocates using public resources and enjoying special legal exemptions from an open records law meant to help level the playing field by giving access to public information, such as Cronon’s e-mails on the Wisconsin server, from those excluded from power.  His claim that his e-mails constitute student records under the Buckley Law is spurious because confidential information can be redacted.