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.

Statement in Support of Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

The Wisconsin State Legislature Joint Finance Committee’s precipitant vote taken shortly after dawn on June 5 to expel the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from the University of Wisconsin and bar university employees from working with the organization is an attack on freedom of the press, a cornerstone of our democracy. The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism (IowaWatch) condemns this vote and urges the legislature to remove this provision from its budget.