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UW Struggle: “Remember the Time” Edition

RememberAh, memories.

Remember back to the days of Pharaoh Murphy and those UW professors that had the audacity to complain about UW Central’s “behind closed doors” governing strategy? Remember how said professors were scolded, and even President Cross himself emerged from a backroom behind a backroom to say that too much public lobbying has hurt the system in the past? Remember how uppity UW Professors were reminded to sit down and be quiet? The boss is the boss after all, opined the great Falbo Baggins, so don’t worry your pretty little heads about it. Why would we possibly want openness? And for good measure, we were subjected to this…again:

Well, like Michael Jackson on Dangerous, I remember the time.

So imagine last night as all hell broke loose in the Joint Finance Committee when Republican legislators moved to gut Wisconsin Open Records laws as they applied to themselves and, well, how they want to keep their work behind closed doors.

And… outrage! Justifiably so. Holy triple-jumping turkeys, even Christian Schneider is on board the “Say what?” train (you know, the Christian Schneider who couldn’t believe UW professors wouldn’t shut up and that tenure was not being changed?). I’m thankful for it—I enjoyed his tweets during the process, which were informative and based on experience, like this one:

So all I have to say to Mr. Schneider is… Well, Marquette isn’t subject to open records via state law, and they’re doing just fine! So there! Zing!

So how dare the legislature try to conduct important public business in secret? Wisconsin will never stand for such an infringement on its citizens’ rights! And this infringement has wide-reaching applications for government, research, reporting, media… and here’s journalist Greg Neumann talking about new obstacles in his workplace:

There was another tweet that I can no longer find about simply having the ability to do one’s job. Tell me about it! Welcome to the UW faculty and staff club, where the micro-manage-Vos-a-scope is your home! (If you don’t follow Neumann on Twitter, do so.)

Even conservative voters, politicians, and organizations stepped up to bash this brazen overreach:

So as you can see, we will rally across party lines to demand that our rights be preserved… just like we did a few weeks back when the JFC infringed on the property rights of UW tenured faculty by reneging on the state’s obligations to employees that it required years upon years of taxing work from. Remember how we all came together! Are you with me! Instead of chanting “Nerds!” we now intoxicate ourselves with the spirit of Peter O’Toole!

Okay, maybe I was hoping for too much.

I’m obviously having fun in the space above, but let me take a break from that for a moment…

Isn’t it time we acknowledged that all of these legislative moves are coordinated and of a piece? Can we consider standing up for our neighbors’ rights in situations that don’t seem to directly affect us, even those lowly professors, UW staff, and students… maybe even the poor? Can we open our minds to the possibility, when the UW was dominating the news cycle, that the people protesting loudly about their rights might have had a point or two? Can we explore the possibility that there is a lot wrong in our state government right now and a lot of people are being targeted, bullied, and diminished? Can we consider that these situations—the UW and the assault on open records law—have a few things in common, especially in regard to coordination? On that, I will leave the final word to a prominant conservative blogger:

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