NYTIMES OBSCURES TRUTH: a FOIA request for a PUBLIC University Professor’s Email is standard

April 1, 2011

A conservative research group in Michigan has issued a far-reaching public records request to the labor studies departments at three public universities in the state, seeking any e-mails involving the Wisconsin labor turmoil.
William Cronon, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  The group, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, declined to explain why it was making the Freedom of Information Act request for material from professors at the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State University. But several professors who received the records request, which was first reported by Talking Points Memo on Tuesday, said it appeared to be an attempt to intimidate or embarrass professors who are sympathetic to organized labor.
This records request, which was filed Friday, comes several days after the Republican Party of Wisconsin made a records request to a prominent University of Wisconsin history professor, William Cronon, who had severely criticized the state’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, over his push for legislation to weaken public-sector unions.
The Mackinac Center, which describes itself as a nonpartisan research and educational institution and receives money from numerous conservative foundations, asked the three universities’ labor studies faculty members for any e-mails mentioning “Scott Walker,” “Madison,” “Wisconsin” or “Rachel Maddow,” the liberal talk show host on MSNBC.
Greg Scholtz, the director of academic freedom for the American Association of University Professors, said: “We think all this will have a chilling effect on academic freedom. We’ve never seen FOIA requests used like this before.”
Roland Zullo, a labor studies professor at the University of Michigan, said he found the center’s request “puzzling.” “It seems an odd request for an institution that claims to be nonpartisan,” he said.
Michael D. Jahr, the Mackinac Center’s vice president for communications, declined to discuss the records request. Ken Braun, managing editor of the center’s political newsletter, declined to give the reason for it. He said the newsletter, Michigan Capital Confidential, had made the request and often makes such public records requests.

Teacher With Long History of Depression Kills Herself

“As a general policy, we don’t discuss our FOIAs until we write about them,” Mr. Braun said. He said the records request could have been much broader but was limited to a handful of topics at just the labor studies departments, instead of also including history and political science departments.
Mr. Braun said the center’s request was in no way coordinated with the Wisconsin Republican Party’s FOIA request to Professor Cronon.
After one recent records request, the center reported that taxpayers were paying the salary of an elementary school teacher even though she was released from her teaching duties to work 100 percent on union issues.
Marick Masters, the director of labor studies at Wayne State, said he had nothing to hide. “This looks like an attempt to embarrass us,” he said. “I haven’t engaged in any partisan activities here. I think they’re probably interested in seeing the extent to which labor studies centers in the state have helped orchestrate the protests in Madison.”
Professor Cronon, who describes himself as a political independent, said he was angry about what he called an attempt at harassment. He said that he had never engaged in any nonscholarly political work on university computers or time, which is prohibited, but that he was still concerned about the release of any e-mails. The Republican Party requested e-mails mentioning several politically related words, including Mr. Walker and several legislators.
“There is an academic freedom issue here,” Mr. Cronon said.
Mark Jefferson, the executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, declined to explain why the records request was made. He criticized Professor Cronon for questioning the party’s motives. “I find this troubling,” he said. “Like anyone else filing a public records request, I don’t have to give a reason.”

Narayan Mahon for The New York Times

“YOU WILL DIE?”



Teacher With Long History of Depression Kills Herself

March 19, 2011
what’s wrong with these people? Insensitive? Neigh!

Jeri-Lynn Betts, an early childhood teacher in the Watertown, Wisconsin, school district, died on March 8 of an apparent suicide.

A colleague says she was “very distraught” over Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on public sector workers and public education.

“YOU WILL DIE!!!!”
Read The Death Threat
E-Mail Sent To Wisconsin
GOP Senators [Update 4:
Wisconsin Teacher Charged]

Remember this?
Wisconsin Dem State Rep.
Gordon Hintz To Republican
“You are F***king dead!

Incitement to murder?

Betts, 56, was a dedicated teacher who was admired in the Watertown community.
“She was an amazing person,” says the Rev. Terry Larson of the Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Watertown, where she was a member. “She really put her heart and soul in her work,” adds Larson, who officiated at her memorial service on March 15.
“She was one of the good guys,” says Karen Stefonek, who used to teach with Betts. “She was very, very dedicated, and worked so well with the little special needs children. She just was very, very good with them, and very well respected in the district.”

In the days after Betts’s death, two members of the school district contacted The Progressive about her death, calling it a suicide and saying it was connected, at least in part, to the policies that Walker has proposed. He has demanded that public workers, including teachers, contribute a significant amount of their salaries to health care and pensions. And in his budget, he proposed taking $900 million out of the public schools, imposing a freeze on property taxes so local governments can’t chip in more for education, and allowing any student, regardless of income, to go to a private school with a taxpayer subsidy.
“She was definitely very distraught about it,” said one of her co-workers, who requested anonymity. “She was feeling a lot of stress about the legislation that was going through.”

teachers to stalk your kids on Facebook now?

My education was dismal. I went to a series of schools for mentally disturbed teachers.
-Woody Allen….