If the government can mandate admission policies, schools are de facto extensions of the government, so are university employees bound by Freedom Of Information requests? Journalists request emails and documents all of the time under the auspices of knowing what people who get taxpayer money are doing. William Cronon, historian at the University of Wisconsin, thinks an open-records request about his emails, completely legal under Wisconsin and certainly federal law, is instead political retaliation by the GOP and is designed to hinder his academic freedom.
Does freedom of information trump academic freedom, even when it comes to school employees who are paid by universities that get tax money? The American Association of University Professors wants the best of both worlds, as you might expect, and thinks academic freedom is paramount. They argue freedom of information requests by political groups and journalists could have a 'chilling effect', as does Cronon. Would academic freedom be paramount to academics if the professor in question were a Republican and had made allegations of mobster-like tactics such as intimidating people who didn't play ball with the union? Unlikely. Political discrimination in academia is the only kind rationalized by academics when it comes to diversity discussions.
Freedom of Information requests have served society well for decades - declaring people exempt if they write editorials critical of Republicans in The New York Times would not be the road to more transparency. Requests can be used - and misused - but declaring they can only be used by academics and not against them would violate the spirit and the letter of the law.
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