An open records request by a conservative think tank in Michigan seeks all emails related to the collective bargaining standoff in Wisconsin from labor studies professors at three public universities. The request came just days after the Republican Party of Wisconsin made a similar request of a professor at that state's flagship university in Madison.
The professors in question say the requests are highly unusual, smack of McCarthyism and are an attack on academic freedom. They point to the "big brother" attempt to silence dissent and the beginning of potential totalitarism.
Republicans counter that they don't need to give a reason for such "routine" requests and call it chilling that they would come under fire for "lawfully seeking information about their government."
Yet this has never been done before by political operatives. The Freedom of Information Act was conceived to allow the press to do its job and allow individuals to find out about files about themselves or attacks on their character and, oddly enough, privacy. In part it grew from heavy handed intimidation by the FBI and other government agencies against dissenters in the mid to late 20th Century.
The inference is that if you speak any way but our way, your job may be in danger.
Professors jobs, in part, are to stimulate thought and to challenge students toward critical thinking and free speech, whatever their views may be. To do so, open statements of beliefs and views by the professor are needed, or the professor cannot challenge through dissent.
Then too there is the issue of who funds the conservative think tank that is filing the actions. Heavy and some high profile contributors to Tea Party candidates and the Republican Party dominate the list of the "board" of the organization behind these particular "freedom of information" act requests.
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