Commentary: Wisconsin Legislative Move Raises Serious Academic Freedom Issues

The punishment was doled out with little warning in a 12-4 party line vote of the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, with Republicans holding the majority. At about 6 o’clock in the morning on Thursday, June 6, the soon-to-be not so secret double probation came in a provision in the state’s budget bill:

“Center for Investigative Journalism. Prohibit the Board of Regents from permitting the Center for Investigative Journalism to occupy any facilities owned or leased by the Board of Regents. In addition, prohibit UW employees from doing any work related to the Center for Investigative Journalism as part of their duties as a UW employee.”

The center in this case is the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The organization is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that has a contract for space at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication to produce long-form investigative stories in partnership with other news media while training paid UW student interns to do this work and providing resources such as guest lectures for the school.