Protect academic freedom from the GOP! Petition re: U. Michigan (IMPORTANT)

From Fran Ansley:


I received this message from a friend at the University of Michigan, and I thought you would be interested.

Although the introductory letter makes it sound like only University of Michigan folks are invited to sign, that is not the case. Others are signing as well. I have signed the petition myself, but added a brief e-mail message explaining that I was writing from outside the university because I think what Michigan does in this instance will affect many people beyond that institution and that state.

My friend tells me that they are going to deliver all this at noon tomorrow, so sign at once if you are interested.


—— Forwarded Message

From: Ian Robinson

Hi all,

This is a petition that I drafted w/ some help from a staffer. I’m sure you’ve all heard about what happened in Michigan already w/ our three labor studies centers all receiving FOIA requests from the Koch Bros-funded Mackinac Center. The key words they wanted searched were things like Wisconsin and Maddow! You may have been wondering what to do about it. Here is one option: sign this petition
and pass it on!



Click here to sign your name:

“Protect academic freedom at the University of Michigan by safeguarding academic email from frivolous disclosure requests.”

Sign the Petition!

Dear MoveOn member,

My name is Ian Robinson. I’m a member of the Department of Sociology and the Residential College’s interdisciplinary Social Theory and Practice program. I’m writing to you today because academic freedom is under threat on our campus.

It started in Wisconsin, after a University of Wisconsin professor commented on current events there in a blog post. The Republican Party of Wisconsin then filed a Freedom of Information Act request for access to hundreds of emails sent to and from the professor’s university email account.1

Just a few days later the Mackinac Center, a conservative think tank here in Michigan, filed a similar request for emails from members of the Labor Studies Center at the University of Michigan.2

The request is absurdly broad and meant to do only one thing-intimidate scholars who might write about labor issues in ways that the Mackinac Center disagrees with. Nobel laureate Paul Krugman calls it “academic intimidation.”3

The Freedom of Information Act is meant to make government business more transparent-not to snoop through all of a professor’s emails.

The University of Wisconsin fought back when it fulfilled the request by refusing to release private email exchanges among scholars, saying that those fall within the orbit of academic freedom.4

The University of Michigan should do the same. Will you join me in signing a petition in support of our academic community?

Sign the petition to protect academic freedom on campus

Academic freedom is a cherished value at any university. It means scholars are free to discuss and develop ideas-even controversial ideas-among themselves without fear of reprisal or premature disclosure of their thoughts.

Open record laws are meant to ensure good governance at public institutions, include public universities.

They’re not meant to police what academics write or think.

The Mackinac Center, which filed the request, hasn’t even said why it wants them, but it’s clear that it is trying to make it harder and more intimidating for researchers to discuss controversial issues.

The University of Wisconsin took a bold stand on behalf of its faculty and on behalf of academic freedom when it announced it would protect scholarly correspondence from release. Tell the University of Michigan to protect the academic freedom here too. We cannot afford to let politically motivated outside parties encroach on the academic space that universities need to thrive. Join me in signing the petition:


Ian Robinson


1.”Conservative Think Tank Seeks Michigan Profs’ Emails About Wisconsin Union Battle … And Maddow,” Talking Points Memo, March 29, 2011

“Group Seeks Labor E-Mails by Michigan Professors,” The New York Times, March 30, 2011

2. Ibid.

3. “Academic Initmidation,” The New York Times, March 25, 2011

“American Thought Police,” The New York Times, March 27, 2011

4. “Chancellor’s message on academic freedom and open records,” press release, University of Wisconsin-Madison, April 1, 2011


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