Saturday, March 26, 2011

William Cronon and the Open Records Request

This story is being beaten to death everywhere but I think Cronon is in a pretty good position.  He came out to publicly argue that the public records request was legal but against the spirit of the law.  The University's Chancellor has said they would comply with the law, but that they are required to weigh the request versus the academic freedom and student privacy issues.  For the Republican party of Wisconsin it's a fishing expedition gone bad.  One thing that strikes me about it as frustrating is the abuse of language.  For example, take this press release:
For Immediate Release
Contact: Katie McCallum, Communications Director (608) 257-4765
March 25, 2011

In response to Professor William Cronin’s deplorable tactics in seeking to force the Republican Party of Wisconsin to withdraw a routine open records request, Executive Director Mark Jefferson released the following statement:
When did public discourse become a deplorable tactic?  If they're scared of that I'm not sure these people can handle an academic.  Next thing you know he might ask them hard questions, like what's in the constitution.
“Like anyone else who makes an open records request in Wisconsin, the Republican Party of Wisconsin does not have to give a reason for doing so.
Ok.  They don't want to engage in a public discussion until they have some dirt to fling.  Fair enough.
“I have never seen such a concerted effort to intimidate someone from lawfully seeking information about their government.
Let's be honest, the Republican party of Wisconsin is not "someone", and Cronon is not the government.  If they're intimidated by Cronon's firm but gentle statements about his rights and his view of their request, they really need to find a different business.  How can a dominant political party actually get away with playing victim... (!?)
“Further, it is chilling to see that so many members of the media would take up the cause of a professor who seeks to quash a lawful open records request. 
The media report on things.  Horror!  "Chilling" is the word you use when the government, or some other powerful entity destroys people's careers for political purposes.  When someone counters your political fishing expedition by publicizing it on their blog I would not call that "Chilling".  
The Left is far more aggressive in this state than the Right in its use of open records requests, yet these rights do extend beyond the liberal left and members of the media.
You poor baby, the Left and the Media are out to get you.
“Finally, I find it appalling that Professor Cronin seems to have plenty of time to round up reporters from around the nation to push the Republican Party of Wisconsin into explaining its motives behind a lawful open records request,
Does Mark Jefferson realize that just because they have the power to do something doesn't make it an ethical, moral, or even smart course of action?  This worries me.
but has apparently not found time to provide any of the requested information.
Honey, that's what the University legal and IT departments are for.  Cronon needs to take care of other stuff, like writing environmental history.
 “We look forward to the University’s prompt response to our request and hope those who seek to intimidate us from making such requests will reconsider their actions.”
No no no, Mr. Jefferson, you've got it all wrong.  When a professor asks you to explain yourself they're not intimidating you.  They're just asking you to fire a few neurons and make a coherent statement.  It's scary at first, but it'll turn out ok!
Republican Party of Wisconsin | 148 East Johnson St. | Madison, Wisconsin 53703
p: 608.257.4765 | f: 608.257.4141| e:
Go Dr.Cronon!  I'm sorry you have to deal with the ugliness of modern politics, but I'm pleased to see that you are striking terror into the hearts of political operatives everywhere with your gentle application of civil discourse.

1 comment:

  1. "When a professor asks you to explain yourself they're not intimidating you. They're just asking you to fire a few neurons and make a coherent statement. It's scary at first, but it'll turn out ok!"

    Brilliant. I can't even blog about this subject now, because you already nailed it.