May 8, 2009

"My university administration has asked me not to speak to the press"

Fellow education policy blogger Sara Goldrick-Rab wrote a painful entry earlier this week about how her administration treats her speaking up on a policy issue in her area of expertise (in this case, her opposition to UW-Madison's tuition hike), and I'm sorry I haven't followed up before now, because if she is reporting correctly (see the comments attributed to her in the Madinson Capitol Times), the University of Wisconsin-Madison administration is infringing on her academic freedom.

I was contacted the night before the initiative was rolled out by vice provost for enrollment management Joanne Berg, who informed me of the news and told me to refer all press inquiries to the University Communications office.

I should note that while I am sympathetic to Goldrick-Rab's policy perspective, I think she's wrong about the policy (for reasons I'd rather explore in a different entry). But my disagreement with her on specific policy grounds is very different from my absolute support for any colleague who is speaking on a matter of public concern, including employers' actions, from her or his expertise. This is one of those cases where I'd prefer knowing more about what's going on at the ground level, but at a first glance, it looks like Berg was acting the bully. Even if there were a miscommunication involved, Berg owes Goldrick-Rab a blunt apology for not remembering that tenure-track assistant professors have a pretty rational paranoia and a finely-tuned power meter. Berg could even use the wording President Obama has to acknowledge error: "I screwed up." 

Anyone want to guess what the odds are that she'll do that?

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Posted in Academic freedom on May 8, 2009 6:25 PM |