University Committee Statement on the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

The University Committee, UW-Madison’s faculty governance executive committee, and the Academic Staff Executive Committee released a joint statement on academic freedom and legislative action affecting the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism today:

Higher education is at its best when faculty members are free to take up difficult problems and do original research to help society solve them, and when they are free to train students according to their understanding of the state of knowledge and best practices in their field. The most immediate beneficiaries of academic freedom are students. The university acquaints them with the cutting edge of knowledge in one or more fields then launches them into productive working lives. But all of us benefit directly from the research and training traditions of great universities, as proved by nearly every important advance in science, technology, and human understanding. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the drive for discovery coupled with a proud teaching and public service mission is called the “Wisconsin Idea.”

Intellectual freedom is central to the Wisconsin Idea. No one knows which insights or discoveries will be the ones to change the world for the better, or which students or faculty or staff members will come up with them. One thing is certain: We have hundreds of years of experience to tell us that when we entrust a university with the responsibility to pursue knowledge and train its students untrammeled by politics, we do far better as a society than when government intrudes to tell the university what (and whom) it can and cannot teach.

We strongly urge you — in the name of academic freedom and the State of Wisconsin’s grand tradition of free inquiry — to remove the restrictions placed in the budget on the capacity of faculty members and students of our School of Journalism and Mass Communication to engage with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. These restrictions are a direct challenge to academic freedom. They hamper intellectual discovery, reduce opportunities for students to get hands-on experience putting what they’ve learned into practice, and run counter to the Wisconsin Idea by curtailing the university’s ability to serve the public good. In short, the proposed legislation sets a dangerous precedent. It constrains what instructors may teach and what students may learn. It begins to undo what makes the University of Wisconsin-Madison one of the world’s great public universities.

Members of the University Committee:
Michael Bernard-Donals, UC chair, professor, English
Mark Cook, professor, Animal Science
Jo Ellen Fair, professor, Journalism and Mass Communication
Dorothy Farrar-Edwards, professor, Kinesiology
M. Elizabeth Meyerand, professor, Biomedical Engineering
Grant Petty, professor, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Members of the Academic Staff Executive Committee:
Jeff Shokler, chair
Marwa Bassiouni
Heather Daniels
Robin Kurtz
Jim Maynard
Heather McFadden
Robert Newsom
Erin Silva

Edited to update ASEC list.

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