Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Did UW pay for a lack of diversity?

The indignation has begun over the legislature's "attack" on the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. No one should be surprised. The UW - and universities across the country - have no one to blame for this type of thing but themselves.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism may do good work, although the example given in news accounts of Wednesday's action - breaking the story of the altercation between Justices Prosser and Gableman - is not an example. That was actually pretty shoddy work. What is hard to deny is that it is funded by left-leaning organizations and has a left-leaning bias - as does almost every part of the UW engaged in policy work.

And that last part may be the problem. There is nothing wrong with a group like the Center for Investigative Journalism having a perspective on the world. There even could be nothing wrong with having a Soros funded organization like the Center (funded operation at a public university - or one funded by the Koch brothers.

But there ought be some balance.  There is no way that the UW would tolerate a conservative counterpart of the Center for Investigative Journalism.  Imagine, for example, the MacIver Institute with offices in Vilas Hall.

You can't.

I don't know why the legislature did what it did. Don't know anything other than what I read in the paper. But when public universities shun intellectual diversity - as the UW has indisputably done - they ought not to be surprised when people decide that it may not be wise to allocate public money to fund one side of the debate.

I understand that the reaction to this will be denial. But anyone who believes that the leftward tilt of universities is the result of unimpeded inquiry doesn't know very much about universities. They are wonderful in many ways but they are among the most conformist institutions in our society.

If this were not so. If the UW occasionally roused itself to promote a diversity of ideas, I'd have more sympathy for the Center. In any event, not being able to occupy Vilas Hall will hardly cause it to shut down. Rent is cheap.

I do have concerns about that part of the proposed legislation that says no one can do work "related to" the Center as part of their employment at the UW. That does strike me as a very broad proscription that is incompatible with academic freedom.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.


Display Name said...

We can't imagine the MacIver Institute working hand-in-hand with the UW J-school because MacIver doesn't do anything resembling journalism. They don't even strive for journalism.

Read their "About" page. They are a "think tank that promotes" a preconceived viewpoint.

The WCIJ's mission is to "improve the quality and expand the amount of investigative journalism in Wisconsin."

You claim without evidence that WCIJ has a "left-leaning bias" and you use this support your suggestion that there ought to be some balance. You claim without evidence that the UW is shunning intellectual diversity.

But let's try to Follow The Logic™. Are you suggesting that we'd be in a better place if the J-school was working hand-in-hand with a right-wing group that writes opinion pieces, but the only way to bring justice to this situation and increase the intellectual diversity would be to kick out the group you think is lefty?

Run with it. Tell us why the UW J-school should be working arm-in-arm with MacIver.

(Also, you forgot to mention Saul Alinsky's ghost. He's usually mentioned in the same breath as Soros.)

But thank you for the Prof. Shh 'n Shh's Standard Contradictory Disclaimer™ at the end there... you have concerns about the part of the legislation that clearly explained the political motivation behind it.

Or as Sen. Dale Schultz put it, this is what we would expect from "from Vladimir Putin or Hugo Chavez." To which I'd add, nah, Putin and Chavez would've been more subtle and inclusive.

Do you feel you're in compliance with Marquette's acceptable use policy, and that you've never used their computing or telephonic resources for personal or political gain?

George Mitchell said...

The professor must have missed the talking points memo. From Charlie "What is my evidence? Absolutely none" Sykes...

This is me wincing.

In the final minutes of its marathon, all-night budget session, Republicans on the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee passed this surprise motion:

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.

What was worse here? The substance or the awful optics? With a single motion, the JFC managed to distract attention away from the substantive accomplishments of this budget, while arousing certain media backlash. And in this case the backlash will be justified.

The GOP’s budget motion was a vindictive attack on a journalistic operation on ideological grounds. Does that sound slightly familiar? At a time when conservatives should be embracing government restraint, the motion combines some of the worst aspects of the IRS and DOJ scandals – using government to punish those perceived as political enemies combined with a clear assault on the free press. (Not to mention that it now allows the UW to regain some of the moral high ground it lost during the slush fund scandal.)

Who thought this was a good idea?

The move should especially appall those of us in the conservative media.

Imagine how we would have reacted if Jim Doyle and Democrat legislature had passed legislation targeting conservative talk radio or any of the independent new media watchdog groups that have arisen in recent years. Imagine a budget amendment that targeted the MacIver Institute or, Media Trackers, or well, Right Wisconsin. Granted, we are not housed in buildings owned by the state, but what matters here is the use of government power to lash out at a group of media watchdogs.

Some background might be necessary here.

The center describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan organization based in Madison, Wis., that collaborates with other media outlets."

The Center works with its partners and mainstream and ethnic news media to improve the quality and quantity of investigative journalism in Wisconsin. Our focus is on government integrity and quality of life issues.

The Center doesn’t take sides or play favorites. Its articles have provided in-depth coverage of government institutions, including the University of Wisconsin System, which houses it.

George Mitchell said...


Well, maybe.

One of the conservative gripes about the Center is that it has received funding from the George Soros run Open Society Institute and other liberal-leaning foundations. The Center it has occasionally fed the standard liberal media narrative; and it is legitimate to question the extent to which UW aligns itself with liberal-leaning "think tanks" and other entities while shunning those of a conservative bent.

But the fact is, the Center for Investigative Journalism does good work. Part of its job is to harass and annoy those in power and ask difficult questions and that makes political enemies no both sides of the aisle. That’s what a free press does.

In fact, I’ve found the center’s work quite valuable. In 2009, for example, the Center published the first piece exposing the high-speed train as a sham.

An investigation by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism students found some gaps in one of the state’s biggest proposed stimulus projects: A proposed half-billion-dollar high-speed passenger rail line between Madison and Milwaukee.

State officials predict that the trains will be popular. But in some cases, the trains wouldn’t match current commuting and travel routes. Even though it’s billed as a high-speed service, officials say the trains will run at an average of just 70 miles an hour, at least for the first few years. And even if Wisconsin wins federal funding for the project, state taxpayers will pay millions each year to operate the new 85-mile passenger rail line.

And thus did the high speed train, become the "half-fast" train. I cited that study in a column I write for the conservative Wisconsin Interest Magazine and it became a major theme in the 2010 campaign.

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