UW Chancellor Biddy Martin
Scholars and scientists pursue knowledge by way of open intellectual exchange. Without a zone of privacy within which to conduct and protect their work, scholars would not be able to produce new knowledge or make life-enhancing discoveries. Lively, even heated and acrimonious debates over policy, campus and otherwise, as well as more narrowly defined disciplinary matters are essential elements of an intellectual environment and such debates are the very definition of the Wisconsin Idea.
To our faculty, I say: Continue to ask difficult questions, explore unpopular lines of thought and exercise your academic freedom, regardless of your point of view. As always, we will take our cue from the bronze plaque on the walls of Bascom Hall. It calls for the ‘continual and fearless sifting and winnowing’ of ideas. It is our tradition, our defining value, and the way to a better society.
It should be said that this is the job of a University Chancellor. Again and again in academia, I see the highest respect reserved for those administrators who stand up for the core principles of scholarship -- or, in other words, those who stand behind their faculty members and students when they're faced with challenges from beyond. Academia is a world unto itself, for good and sometimes for evil, and it requires skillful leadership to maintain that created safety bubble against the pressures from without.
The university has decided to release all of the e-mails that Professor Cronon sent out except for 1) those pertaining to students or potential students, 2) those pertaining to scholarly communications, 3) those pertaining to personnel matters, and 4) "exchanges that fall outside the realm of the faculty member's job responsibilities and that could be considered personal pursuant to Wisconsin Supreme Court case law." Within what remains -- and, it's implied, within what was reviewed -- there is nothing that the university deemed in any way improperly political in Cronon's messages. Bravo, Professor.
And as a final note: I have yet to read anything about the current Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison that doesn't make me love her more.
Hat-tip to Andrew Leonard for the link and good thoughts.