The Academic Inquisition

March 25, 2011 | Blog

The witch hunt is on. Last night, my colleague William Cronon — a highly respected, tenured professor of history — revealed that the Wisconsin Republican Party made an open records request for his university email following the publication of his first-ever blog post. What was in that post? A thoughtful set of questions about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The investigation of Bill Cronon scares the crap out of me, quite frankly. And obviously, that’s the intent.

We are told as university faculty that we are state employees and our writing is subject to these requests, but many of us operate (have operated) under the impression we are living in a rational, civil society that understands the importance of academic freedom. No longer.

I’m betting that a request is coming my way soon. I lack Cronon’s long track record in academia, I lack his tenured status, I lack his measured way of saying things, I lack his status as a white male, I lack his apparent consummate ability to separate professional vs. personal life.

And, unfortunately, I lack the ability to say I’ve never blogged on ALEC. Well, actually, I didn’t, but my husband did. On our blog– which we, in the public impression, write together.

So, what can I say? I sit and wait.

This is horrible, terrible, awful time to be an untenured professor in public higher education. Am I a witch?


  1. Reply


    March 25, 2011

    You're not a witch unless it's suddenly Halloween again. I'm a grad student and therefore practically nobody, but I and others like me are behind you 100%. Keep writing. Keep doing what you do. I can't even imagine how terrifying it must be to be untenured (especially in this department) right now, but you're doing important work. Don't let them scare you off.

    And of course, let us know if there's anything we can do to help.

  2. Reply


    March 25, 2011

    I would like to see all the Wisconsin professors who support Cronon to create blog posts and dare the GOP to investigate all of them.

  3. Reply


    March 31, 2011

    Well, if you've been using state-owned email systems for anything even more incendiary and biased than the Nazi comparisons you make on this very blog, then you should migrate to a private email account.

  4. Reply

    Ryan P. Adserias

    March 31, 2011

    (The temerity of anonymous blog commenters)

    I'd like to see Anonymous (3/31 @8:21AM) use their real name, instead of hiding behind the anonymity of the internettubes.

  5. Reply


    April 1, 2011

    As a former undergrad at UW Madison, I support the faculty 100%. Keep doing what you do!

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