Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Cost of Freedom (of Information): In Defense of William Cronon - Inside Higher Ed

Barbara Fister at Inside Higher Ed on the Wisconsin Republican e-mail search:

I am a huge fan of open government and of the Freedom of Information Act. The right of the people to request information from public officials is an important tool for journalism, research, and activism. That’s why, as I read responses to a political group’s request for e-mail correspondence from a state employee, my knee does not begin to jerk convulsively. I don’t think, “e-mail!? That’s outrageous! how dare you invade an individual’s privacy?” Not only do I know better than to think a work account is in any respect private or personal, but I remember how outraged I felt when I learned that top officials of the Bush White House used unofficial e-mail accounts to avoid their official correspondence being part of the record. (And I must say I am impressed that there’s a Wikipedia article on this very topic.)

All that said, I am appalled that officials of the Republican Party in Wisconsin have decided to use a public records law to peer into a University of Wisconsin history professor’s e-mail to see if he’s said anything they consider inappropriate and to find out if he can be attacked for violating the university’s policies. (An aside: as a born-and-bred Sconnie who spent my childhood hanging around the UW campus and playing tag in the basement hallways of the capital building, I am baffled and dismayed by recent events and wonder how it can possibly have happened in my home state; as a connoisseur of headlines, “Wisconsin Gets Weirder” is a keeper.) . . .

The Cost of Freedom (of Information): In Defense of William Cronon - Inside Higher Ed

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