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Simply a scare tactic
FOIA shouldn't be abused for political motives
Arecent Freedom of Information Act request from the Mackinac
Center for Public Policy solicited e-mails regarding the union
in Michigan. Filed last week, the non-profit, nonpartisan research
institute's request seeks faculty e-mails from the labor departments
at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne
State University that contain the words "Wisconsin," "Scott Walker"
or "Maddow." Though the state's sunshine laws technically give the
organization the right to ask for the messages, the universities involved
shouldn't feel pressured to release faculty e-mails. The Mackinac
Center's request is simply a scare tactic that aims to intimidate pro-
labor professors and suppress academic freedom.

Public enemy number one

This isn't the first time FOIA has been used
to intimidate and stifle criticism. On March
17, the Wisconsin Republican Party demand-
ed the release of e-mails from University of
Wisconsin-Madison Prof. William Cronon, an
open critic of Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott
Walker. Though the GOP claimed the request
was filed in order to determine whether or
not Cronon had violated a Wisconsin law that
stipulates state-funded resources - like work
e-mail - cannot be used for political purpos-
es, it's clear that Wisconsin's GOP was using
bureaucratic means to intimidate those who
oppose its actions.
Now the political witch-hunt has crossed
Michigan's borders. While the Mackinac Cen-
ter claims that the call for faculty e-mail is sim-
ply for apolitical analysis, the fact that the think
tank only solicited e-mails from the three uni-
versities' labor departments suggeststhere may
be more political motives behind the request. If
the organization wanted an unbiased analysis
of professors' responses to iheIabor protests
in Wisconsin, it could have requested informa-
tion from a number of other departments that
may address the dispute. Only requesting the
e-mails from the labor departments suggests
that the center aims to intimidate and suppress
the voice of one group - labor.

The FOIA request infringes on something
more important than e-mail privacy: academic
freedom. While it may not be appropriate for
university staff members to openly engage in
partisan politics, expressing judgments on the
actions of the government via personal e-mails
is well within their rights. Professors and stu-
dents alike should be able to question policy-
makers even if they're affiliated with a public
The issue of whether certain staff members
violated policies by sending personal, political
e-mails fromtheiruniversitye-mail accounts is
the business of the universities, not the Macki-
nac Center. The think tank is trying to expose
which staff members at which universities are
pro-labor in order to present skewed informa-
tion about the political leanings of different
universities. The University of Michigan has
yet to respond to the FOIA request, and the
administration have a right to do what they can
to protect the privacy of their employees.
While the release of information under
FOIA is an important tool in making public
information public, sifting through the e-mails
of university staff members is an absurd mea-
sure. The Mackinac Center's request is sense-
less and an attempt to intimidate and stifle
dissenting opinions.

Michigan, it seems, has
become a dumping
ground for Wisconsin's
Just as Repub-
lican Gov. Rick
Snyder has fol-
lowed the lead
of Wisconsin's
Republican Gov.
Scott Walker
in scapegoat- NEILL
ing public sector MOHAMAD
employee unions
and gutting edu-
cation spend-
ing in order to pay for corporate tax
breaks, the Mackinac Center for Pub-
lic Policy- anon-partisan, non-profit
organization - has followed Wiscon-
sin's Republican Party in using spu-
rious Freedom of Information Act
requests to demand access to the
e-mail accounts of University faculty.
In Wisconsin, the Republicans'
bete noire is Bill Cronon, a prominent
professor of history at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison. On March
13, Cronon drafted an op-ed for The
New York Times that framed Walk-
er's assault on public sector unions
against the progressive tradition of
Wisconsin Republicans like former
Wisconsin Gov. Robert LaFollette.
In other words, he was practicing his
profession. On March 15, he started
a blog and wrote his first post about
the American Legislative Exchange
Council, a low-profile conservative
group which likely wrote Wiscon-
sin's anti-union legislation and then
handed it to Republican state legisla-
tors. And on March17, the Wisconsin
GOP demanded any e-mail Cronon
may have written from his univer-
sity'e-mail account that includes the
names of any prominent Wiscon-
sin conservatives. At the end of last
week, the Mackinac Center followed
suit by submitting FOIA requests for
any e-mail sentby various labor stud-
ies professors at Wayne State Univer-
sity, Michigan State University and

here at the University of Michigan
that includes the words "Wisconsin,"
"Scott Walker" and MSNBC host
"Rachel Maddow."
One thing is immediately clear:
There's no place in the entire world
where university professors have
more power and influence than in
conservatives' own minds. To critics,
a new era - leaping tall buildings in a
single bound, and producing a new
generation of radical Marxists and
secretly preparing to ban apple pie
and put us all in prison camps where
we'll be forced to receive socialized
health care and Spanish lessons. As
a fellow social scientist in a related
field, this is an unending source of
comedy to me. Just last fall, I attend-
ed the annual meeting of the Ameri-
can Political Science Association,
where the unofficial, but still wildly
depressing, theme of the weekend
was whether political science could
ever make any contribution to our
daily lives. Other than, perhaps, the
economists, researchers in the other
social sciences rarely have the oppor-
tunity to use their expertise to guide
the public policy debates of the day.
Many ofus sometimes doubt whether
students remember anything about
our courses at all after final exams
are turned in.
And yet, here we are. He may be
our nation's preeminent authority
on early 20th century Midwestern
economic development, but up until
two ago, I wouldn't have recognized
Cronon if I ran him over with my car.
Now he's a bona fide public enemy,
with the Wisconsin GOP rummag-
ing through his digital trash, hunting
for an inevitably out-of-context quote
to pit'hindown as the new boogey-
man of a vast liberal conspiracy,
somewhere between Bill Ayers and
whoever first decided to start putting
fluoride in water.
It would be bad enough if Wiscon-
sin Republicans' fixation on Cronon,
or the copy-cat Mackinac Center,

simply reflected an unhealthy obses-
sion with the academy. But it's not
just that; it's a feint, and one more
step into a briar patch where billion-
aires like David and Charles Koch,
who helped bankroll Walker's elec-
tion in Wisconsin, are viewed with
equal suspicion as modest professors
like Cronon, or City University of
New York Prof. Frances Fox Piven,
who somehow found herself the tar-
get of death threats from Glenn Beck
viewers over a book she wrote in the
late 1960s. When no one is beyond
suspicion, everyone is a suspect, and
the most immediate consequence is
that the wealthiest and most pow-
erful political lobbies will be less
scrutinized than ever before. It's
most assuredly not an accident that
this development comes only a year
after Citizens United v. Federal Elec-
tion Commission, the Supreme Court
decision that effectively eliminated
even modest limits on campaign
GOP's fixation on
Cronon reflects
an obsession.
Speaking of political donations -
where does the Mackinac Center get
its support? Predictably, it's never
made any of its donor lists public. But
you can work out at least some of the
largest donors based on their own
income tax filings. The list includes
the heirs to Sam Walton's Wal-Mart
fortune, Amway founder gnd Michi-
gan Senate Republican candidate
Dick DeVos and - drumroll,'please
- Charles and David Koch.
But hey, at least we're cracking
down on this Bill Cronon loser.
-Neill Mohammad can be
reached at neilla@umich.edu.


Aida Ali, Will Butler, Ellie Chessen, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer,
Melanie Kruvelis, Patrick Maillet, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley,
Harsha Panduranga, Teddy Papes, Timothy Rabb, Asa Smith, Seth Soderborg, Andrew Weiner

th e The Complete Spectrum: Chris Dyer discusses what
he believes are the criteria for a hate group.
p Ud m Go to michigandaily.com/blogs/The Podium


Planned Parenthood should
lose its federalfunding
As members of the University of Michigan
Students for Life and counter demonstrators
at the March 26 Planned Parenthood rally
and Walk for Choice, we would like to elabo-
rate upon our reasons for attending.
One of the Planned Parenthood supporters
quoted in a Michigan Daily article (Planned
Parenthood supporters protest proposed slash
to funding, 03/28/2010) said abortion only
comprises 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's
services. However, this statistic is misleading.
Planned Parenthood performed 305,310
abortions in 2007, according to its 2008
annual report (contrast this with 4,912
referrals to outside adoption agencies). The
Kagen's blog was too hard on
First Lady's charitable acts
I'm disappointed that The Michigan Daily
chose to publish Kylie Kagen's ugly and
unnecessary attack on First Lady Michelle
Obama (Seeing Red: Give it a rest, Michelle,
3/29/2011). It is a tradition for the first lady
to have a charitable focus during her hus-
band's presidency. Both Laura and Barbara
Bush helped combat illiteracy. Nancy Reagan
started the "Just Say No" anti-drug cam-

average abortion costs between $400 and
$450. This means that Planned Parent-
hood's total income from abortions is at least
$122,124,000. The total health center income
is listed as $374,700,000 in the same annu-
al report. Therefore, abortion accounts for
about 30.6 percent of Planned Parenthood's
We are not interested in taking away
health care services for women and children.
Rather, we want the public to be aware of
these facts in order to realize why defund-
ing Planned Parenthood is so crucial. There
are many truly non-profit organizations, like
our local ArborVitae Women's Center, which
deserve a greater degree of public support.
This letter was written by LSA sophomore
Anna Paone, LSA junior Elise Aikman, LSA
freshman Joseph Lipa and LSA sophomore
Carmen Allen on behalf of Students for Life.
paign. Lady Bird Johnson focused on beauti-
fying our highways. Yet I doubt Kagen would
be so quick to insult any of these women.
The sole reason people are so upset with
Michelle Obama's continuation of this tradi-
tion is because they disagree with her hus-
band. This serves no purpose other than
an attempt to slander Michelle Obama and
her husband. Kagen claims that the Obama
administration is run through propaganda,
but I think she needs to take a look in the
Ross Warman
LSA freshman

Glover is continuing MLK's legacy

The internationally acclaimed actor Danny Glover is
coming to campus today at 4 p.m., and it's important
to understand the reason why. Our region has been
uplifted by a surge in Hollywood celebrity sightings
because of the film industry tax that may soon expire.
This visit, however, isn't motivated by quick eco-
nomic incentives. Beyond the Hollywood spotlight,
Glover has devoted countless hours to the cause of
social justice, garnering numerous awards for his
humanitarian efforts. Today, he will honor the unique
spirit of community building and creative organizing
emerging from Michigan, especially the grassroots
activist movements rising out of abandonment and
destruction in post-industrial Detroit.
Glover emphasizes these points in his foreword to
"The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activ-
ism for the Twenty-First Century", the new book by
Grace Lee Boggs that I helped to produce. "What does
it mean to develop the life-affirming relationship that
we must have not only for our own survival as a human
species but also for the survival of the planet itself?"
he challenges us to answer. "How do we bring out of
these ashes the ideas, the motivation and the spirit of
this particular moment and take it to the next step?"
Boggs is a 95-year-old philosopher and activist
with seven decades of community organizing expe-
rience, including the last 58 years in Detroit. Baits
Residence Hall has named a lounge after her, and she
received an honorary doctorate from the University in
2009. As University President Mary Sue Coleman then
remarked, "By nurturing Detroit as a city of Hope,
(Boggs has) brought optimism and inspiration to our
state and country."
Together, Glover and Boggs embody a vision of
humanism and global citizenship that carries on the
legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On this date in
1967, King gave one of the most important and cou-
rageous speeches in his life when he declared it was
"time to break silence" by denouncing the Vietnam

War. The urban rebellions of the 1960s had convinced
him that local and international pursuits of nonvio-
lence needed to be connected.
"A nation that continues year after year to spend
more money on military defense than on programs of
social uplift is approaching spiritual death," King pro-
claimed. What our society needed was a "revolution of
values" against the "giant triplets of racism, militarism
and materialism."
Exactly one year later, April 4, 1968, King was
We have all inherited King's unfinished agenda.
With American troops engaged all over the planet,
education systems in crisis and economic hardship
crippling household and government budgets, his pro-
phetic words ring as true today as they did 43 years
Because the problems we face often seem so over-
whelming, students often ask, "What can I do to make
a difference?" There is no easy answer.
We can start by taking the time to reflect on how we
came to this point as individuals, as a nation and as a
society. The next step is to educate ourselves about the
struggles for social change from the bottom up that
are already in motion in Detroit and places around the
Today, we have a unique opportunity to learn from
Glover, Boggs and two award-winning scholars of Afri-
can American history, Robin D. G. Kelley and Gwendo-
lyn Midlo Hall. Professor Stephen Ward, who has played
a pivotal role in connecting students to Detroit, will
moderate this historic discussion, "Sustainable Activ-
ism for the 21st Century: A Forum in Honor of MLK."
Join them from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. this afternoon in the
Modern Languages Building Auditorium 3.
Scott Kurashige is director of the Asian/Pacific
Islander American Studies Program and associate
professor of American Culture and History.


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