Saturday, March 26, 2011

A few (very few) words on the Bill Cronon sh*tstorm

By now, probably all of my readers have read about how leading environmental historian William Cronon has become the latest person to be winged by Wisconsin Republicans' attempts to radically shift the way things are done in that state. I'm not sure I can add much to the debate, so I'm just going to present a few bullet points and encourage y'all to really go read:
  • You can find Bill Cronon's original post here. It's long, but I highly recommend reading it in its entirety. He lays out what happens, why it happened, and why he's resisting a FoIA request for his e-mails.
  • Excellent analysis from more incisive historian minds than my own can be found at Historiann and Tenured Radical.
  • UW Chancellor Biddy Martin's somewhat tepid response (at least to my outsider's eyes) can be found here. I hesitate to judge based on this, because we all know the mare's nest of debate that lurks behind all such cautiously worded statements [edit: my commenters are tending towards interpreting Chancellor Martin's words as cautious, but actually as firm a defender of Cronon as she can be in her current position, and I'm inclined to kinda sorta agree]. Whatever it means, it's an important document to read, and its importance will only increase over the coming weeks, so watch this space.
  • For the record, I do believe that this is an attempt to harass an intellectual who is criticizing government. The state owns his computer, sure; but to me, this is tantamount to saying it also owns his brain and what comes out of it.
  • Also for the record: this may be a good thing in some ways, in that it emphasizes the importance of tenure at a time when it is increasingly under attack -- in the same way that the last month of protests have shown how unions are relevant. Sometimes we need our rights and freedoms threatened to wake us up to why they need to be defended (or why they're obsolete and need to be scrapped and/or reformed, depending on your personal persuasion).
  • On a personal note, I still believe in Wisconsin. They may have given us McCarthy, but they also gave us Fighting Bob La Follette.
  • Finally, confidential to Wisconsin GOP: It's "Cronon" with an "o." Spelling counts.


Comrade PhysioProf said...

I wouldn't characterize the Chancellor's response as "tepid". Rather, it is extremely carefully worded--100% certainly drafted with extensive from the legal counsel's office of the university--and makes it clear that the university's response to the request will be handled by proper procedures and in accordance with appropriate legal standards. The fact that she spent an entire paragraph on academic freedom is very telling. She couldn't possibly make it sound even to a disingenuous reader like she has prejudged the case.

More importantly, Biddy knows how to do the Bucky:

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Yeah, I think you're right, Comrade. I'd love for her to come out swinging, but I think that this probably is the best response in the long run.

And thanks for the vid!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Biddy is a fucken badde-asse, and people who know her assure me that she is not the kind of person who would roll over for this kind of shitte.

Historiann said...

Here's hoping. I too thought that it was less wishy-washy than Notorious led us to believe.

Thanks for the link.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Well, as I said, my response was really a wish for her to say something like "I'd like to see you try it!" Which, I know, is unreasonable. But still.

Davein Northridge said...

I read the Chancellor's response as "Sure. We got your letter. We're now going to stall on it until you're all recalled." Yes, I know, but sometimes it's nice when people on one side act like adults.