Chancellor Martin's statement on open records, academic freedom

March 25, 2011

Here is Chancellor Biddy Martin’s statement on open records and academic freedom:

"As you may have heard, the Republican Party in Wisconsin has made a public records request that would include Professor Bill Cronon’s email exchanges on a number of topics. It is their right under the law to do so. State Supreme Court decisions have held that neither the motive nor the identity of the person or group requesting records can be used to avoid complying with records requests. As his recent publications make clear, Professor Cronon respects Wisconsin’s open records law. The university respects it as well and will comply with the law, as it always does. Compliance with public records requests involves a balancing test. There are many cases in which the university must balance the need, for instance, to protect proprietary research against the public’s right to know.

"In this instance, we will need to consider whether disclosure would result in a chilling effect on the discourse between colleagues that is essential to our academic mission.  

"Academic freedom is one of the university’s greatest contributions to a democratic society. No other institution is charged specifically with protecting the pursuit of knowledge, wherever it may lead. Individual faculty, staff and students inevitably consider and advocate positions that will be at odds with one another’s views and the views of people outside of the university. It is the university’s responsibility both to comply with state law and to protect our community’s right to explore freely and freely  express their points of view."