June 05, 2013
From Wisconsin Idea to Wisconsin ...Something
Some implications of current legislative actions for the conduct of University of Wisconsin system research
From The Isthmus today:
The two-sentence amendment to the budget was part of an omnibus motion that was introduced by the Republican co-chairs of the state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee and passed just before 6 a.m. It reads:
"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 Wisconsin Idea is the political policy developed in the American state of Wisconsin that fosters public universities' contributions to the state: "to the government in the forms of serving in office, offering advice about public policy, providing information and exercising technical skill, and to the citizens in the forms of doing research directed at solving problems that are important to the state and conducting outreach activities."
It would appear that only certain types of information are now desirable.
According to the The Green Bay Press Gazette, "The budget amendment was co-sponsored by two Republicans: state Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills and state Rep. John Nygren of Marinette. Neither immediately returned a message Wednesday."
The Center for Investigative Journalism has responded here.
Other recent episodes in political intervention include this event a couple years ago.
Posted by Menzie Chinn at June 5, 2013 05:05 PMdigg this | reddit
OK, so Wisconsin doesn't want to fund left-wing investigative journalism.
What would you say to spending an equal amount of state money to set up the Madison office of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity?
Surely you're not against government and public integrity?
Posted by: W.C. Varones at June 5, 2013 05:55 PM
Why does a Soros sponsored ("nonpartisan" LOL) Center need taxpayer support? Shouldn't the IRS be investigating? ;)
The Wisconsin Center For Investigative Journalism is one of hundreds of media outlets, and one of fourteen organizations in Wisconsin, that receive significant funding from left-wing billionaire George Soros and the Open Society Institute. Soros, a Hungarian immigrant listed as the Forbes 46th richest man in the world, created the Open Society Institute in 1993 to ”build vibrant and tolerant democracies” through initiatives that “advance justice, education, public health, and independent media.” Since 2003, Soros has spent $48 million funding “independent” media outlets from NPR to small state-based journalism outfits like WCIJ.
Posted by: tj at June 5, 2013 06:29 PM
W.C. Varones and tj: That is a very nice bit of misdirection. The main point is this: "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."
I await the time the legislature prohibits any of us doing any work related to the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission.
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at June 5, 2013 06:50 PM
So I guess these evil Republicans have been taking a page from the Obama playbook, in a much less nefarious way.
Posted by: Rich Berger at June 6, 2013 05:43 AM
Your reply is a very nice bit of misdirection in it's own right. What part of as part fo their duties as a UW employee do you not understand?
There is no restriction on working for the Center of Investigative Journalism, but UW employees must do it on their own time.
If Rush Limbaugh's 'Center for Excellence in Broadcasting' were on UW's campus, would you want to allow UW employees to work for him as part of their UW duties and have Wisconsin taxpayers and UW students paying for it? Of course not! You would demand they work for him on their own time.
Posted by: tj at June 6, 2013 05:53 AM
tj: I would not wish the legislature defining which institutions/groups a professor could work with. Consider the Mercatus Center at GMU -- I don't agree with much of anything the center produces, but I don't believe it the proper role for the legislature to put in a funding bill a stricture that no university employee could work with them. It is absolutely unsurprising to me that you and I have very different ideas of what academic freedom constitutes.
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at June 6, 2013 07:24 AM
There is no restriction at all on who you choose to work with. However, academic freedom is not a license to fleece taxpayers and tuition paying students/parents. Academic freedom gives you the right to teach, research and engage in service according to your contract without fear of termination because you have an agenda that differs from that of the university administration. However, academic freedom does not give you the right to work for an outside entity on academic time. That's called consulting and the outside entity should offer to pay you for it.
Posted by: tj at June 6, 2013 08:52 AM
Would you think it appropriate for lawyers to have rent free offices at the Law School because they hire interns?
That a non-affiliated Center for Investigative Journalism should have such an arrangement with a the University strikes me as peculiar, potentially to be viewed as a conflict of interest or an inside deal.
It's quite simple: The Center should simply go out and rent their own offices to avoid any appearance of non-arm's length transactions.
Posted by: Steven Kopits at June 6, 2013 09:52 AM
Steven Kopits: Hmm, investigative journalism is not something appropriate to a journalism school? Well, maybe you should go a-gunning for the *all* such relationships. For instance, I notice in New Jersey (your state) Rutgers' Center for Energy, Economic and Environmental Policy there are these "partners". Perhaps the Center should be taken off campus and university researchers prohibited from working with such partners, on orders from the legislature, by your criterion. If you say yes there, I think you need to push a wholesale purge of all such relationships on all campuses across the country. Then we can truly have "ivory tower" universities.
tj: Suppose the relevant center was investigating tax avoidance by multinational corporations, and I was also researching that topic, and I wanted to work together with the center on the subject (which I do believe is related to the topic areas of international finance, as well as corporate finance as well as public finance). How would that activity, to be prohibited by the legislature, be "fleecing" the taxpayers? Inquiring minds (or at least this mind) would like to know? (By the way, just to clear, this is a hypothetical. I didn't know the Center existed until the other day).
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at June 6, 2013 10:26 AM
I hear you and significantly agree. It is good to see you on the right side. I am sure you believe that the IRS, the EPA, and ATF should be disbanded because they have targeted certain groups. It is nice to hear you stand up for freedom. Could you maybe now post a response to the wiretapping of new media phones, and pulling all of the records for Verizon (and I think we should know if this same thing has been done with other carriers, and since you are being so liberal on the issue I am sure you agree).
Thanks for joining our libertarian ranks.
Posted by: Ricardo at June 6, 2013 11:29 AM
Honestly, if I were a journalism prof at UW, I would do exactly as you suggest, partner on a research project with them. I think we would quickly discover what the definition of "work" is, and the degree of over-reach, if any.
In your scenario, what if the center is receiving free rent from UW, free custodial staff from UW, and relying on UW faculty for it's content? Assume the content is biased in one way or another. Why should taxpayers and students/parents pay for it?
Posted by: tj at June 6, 2013 12:00 PM
tj: When I work with somebody, typically the information and insights go both ways. Else,I would never coauthor anything, and others would never coauthor. Don't know how it works for you, when/if you work with others.
Ricardo: The scenario laid out was what is called a "hypothetical" conditioned on Steven Kopits' criteria. I believe I suggested that these criteria were nonsensical, but I understand how that subtlety might have escaped your comprehension.
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at June 6, 2013 01:11 PM
Not sure what you're driving at, Menzie. Frank Felder, who is a Professor at Rutgers, runs the Center for Energy, Economic and Environmental Policy there.
Jason Bordoff runs the Energy Center at Columbia's SIPA.
Both Felder and Bordoff carry the business cards of their respective universities. Don't know about Felder, but Bordoff seeks contributions from external parties. But neither are unaffiliated institutions simply getting free office space.
The analogy would be if we at Douglas-Westwood had free office space at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton. I would consider that inappropriate. (And also unlikely: Andlinger has no research on oil and gas at all, astoundingly. Here's the page:
On the other hand, I was looking for office space close to the Woodrow Wilson School with the thought that we would be running internships with students there. (This initiative was aborted by my New York staff, whose reaction to Princeton was, and I am paraphrasing, "Ugh, who would want to work there?" So we're at One Penn Plaza just next to Madison Square Garden. Most my hires are from SIPA.)
Posted by: Steven Kopits at June 6, 2013 01:26 PM
Steven Kopits: Well, you are free to have your opinion regarding space. But the prohibition of working with specific groups, emanating from the legislature, does seem questionable. Or do you find that entirely acceptable? Then the NJ legislature should go and prohibit Rutgers from having any professor work with any of those organizations, including public utilities -- which CEEEP has projects with (I think appropriately so, but using your criterion should not).
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at June 6, 2013 01:47 PM
Sorry Menzie. I guess I made a wrong assumption that you have become a liberal. I didn't mean to insult you. As you imply I will continue to view you as an autocratic Progressive.
Posted by: Ricardo at June 6, 2013 02:08 PM
Universities have collaborations with many external parties. I don't have a problem with that.
Does some of it irritate me? Sure. We spend, what, maybe $1.5 trillion annually on coal, gas and oil, and Andlinger has absolutely no research on these matters? Princeton has an Energy Center, and they are excluding 90%+ of the energy supply from academic consideration? That's astounding. But hey, it's their center; they need to decide what their priorites are.
So, by all means collaborate.
But if you're going to bite the hand that feeds you, don't expect to live for free above the garage.
Posted by: Steven Kopits at June 6, 2013 02:54 PM
Steven Kopits: If you read the articles, you'd know the Center hires students as interns. I guess they could hire fewer interns and pay rent, but this seems only to satisfy a slavish and narrow devotion to accounting. But, as I say, the larger issue is the prohibition against working together. Once one goes down that path, what next? Trilateral Commission? The Masons?
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at June 6, 2013 04:13 PM
If UW wants to give me free space, free custodial staff, free electricity, free labor, etc, then I will open a center for conservatism and hire some political science interns. (At least until the libs gain control of the legislature.)
Of course, I'd be willing to hire those exact same interns even if I wasn't on the university dime.
as part of their duties as a UW employee
I doubt they would object if a UW faculty and an employee of the Center co-authored a paper. Seriously.
Posted by: tj at June 6, 2013 06:52 PM
tj: I know you have a reflexive tendency to assume all things UW related are liberal, but perhaps you should reflect for a second. Here is self-avowed conservative Charlie Sykes' assessment of this action: "petty, vindictive and dumb".
As to whether they would object to a UW professor coauthoring a paper were this provision to be in effect, let me remind you of the WI GOP's actions a couple years back. So, seriously, right back at you.
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at June 6, 2013 07:15 PM
To provide free office space to a non-affiliated organization by a public institution is peculiar. This would be no different than giving someone school computers or the university president giving his sister-in-law an office on campus. Ceteris paribus, it would draw a reprimand, firing or an investigation into inappropriate fiscal transfers. This offset-with-hiring-interns things smacks of corruption. How many times have we heard similar things from politicians?
Having said that, the particulars matter. There may be formal channels by which such things can be approved. I don't know the back story.
As for collaboration. Of course, universities do this all the time. However, at issue is whether agreed employment contracts at the University of Wisconsin permit the carrying out of duties at another organization. I am under the impression that university rules in this matter are pretty flexible. Basically, a prof has to teach his courses, grades papers, meet occasionally with students, and write articles. Other than that, there seems to be a good deal of flexibility as to what professors actually get to do. A journalism professor would, I would imagine, be able to support an entity involved in investigative journalism to the extent such support is considered technical rather than advocacy-based. (Jim Hansen of NASA is an example of someone going over the line into advocacy.)
But if you're going to be in journalism--and particularly investigative journalism, where you are attempting to hold others to account--you had better be squeaky clean on your own relationships. Not clear the standard is met in this case.
Posted by: Steven Kopits at June 7, 2013 05:26 AM
Steven Kopits: Well, my experience with this university is there is a lot of paperwork, and I certainly feel like almost every expenditure has to be approved. But maybe that's just me.
But you still haven't addressed the main point -- the legislature has singled out a single organization to be on the "no-collaborate" list. what is to prevent and expansion of that list (and, gee, why is that single organization on the list -- inquiring minds still want to know).
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at June 7, 2013 06:24 AM
I did answer the question:
"[T]here seems to be a good deal of flexibility as to what professors actually get to do. A journalism professor would, I would imagine, be able to support an entity involved in investigative journalism to the extent such support is considered technical rather than advocacy-based."
Ceteris paribus, I would object to any organization being blacklisted--even those I don't agree with.
Posted by: Steven Kopits at June 7, 2013 07:39 AM
Menzie, as I have learned that the NSA has set up the PRISM project to monitor your doing, please keep in mind that criticsm of right wing rep aganda might lead to waterbording in Guantanamo bay for you - until you are dead or have confessed that you are left-wing.
Today, Abraham Lincoln has turned in his grave.
Posted by: Johannes at June 7, 2013 08:12 AM
The commenters who are stating or implying that WCIJ is receiving free space and services are either ignorant of what contracts mean or are being dishonest.
WCIJ's use of the space and services is subject to the terms of a contract between WCIJ and UW. That contract lays out the consideration WCIJ must provide to UW in exchange for the space and services (which are the most visible portion of the consideration on UW's side).
The contract makes it as clear as can be that the space and services are not free, but instead are tied to the consideration provided by WCIJ.
If you read the Recitals in the contract, it becomes clear that the legislators are interfering with the educational mission of UW and, at best, would provide a pittance in taxpayer savings in return for the harm to the mission.
Posted by: ottnott at June 7, 2013 10:18 AM
Steven Kopits: Thank you, I did not see explicitly in your 5:26AM post what you wrote at 7:39AM:
... I would object to any organization being blacklisted--even those I don't agree with.
That line is what I was looking for. I am glad you are with me on this.
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at June 7, 2013 11:37 AM
And is that contract at market rates?
This is exactly the problem in this kind of deal. It's non-obvious and non-transparent. It is asking for trouble, regardless of the substance of the contract.
Is this standard practice at UW? "If you provide work for some interns, we'll buy computers from you." There are a lot of places where this sort of thing is strictly forbidden. But apparently not at UW.
If the WCIJ is so important to UW, why don't they make it an affiliate? That would solve the problem. Put the director on payroll and give him a UW business card, and then you're fine.
But that doesn't appear to be what they have done.
Posted by: Steven Kopits at June 7, 2013 11:44 AM
The contract makes it as clear as can be that the space and services are not free, but instead are tied to the consideration provided by WCIJ.
The bottom line is that a UW employee can't serve
2 masters on UW time and taxpayer/student/parent funds.
Coauthor? No problem. If the law prohibits coauthoring then it's wrong. I don't see it that way.
Posted by: tj at June 7, 2013 02:57 PM
tj: Huh. Read the text of the provision, again. "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." Is there something about the word "any" you don't understand?
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at June 7, 2013 04:34 PM
Steven K asks: "And is that contract at market rates? "
That's a truly silly question. There's no market for the space, and UW isn't providing the space in exchange for cash.
What matters to UW is whether or not the space is used in a manner that adequately contributes to UW's mission. I don't think it is very hard to understand the value to UW Journalism students of an organization like WCIJ located right in the department, providing internship and mentor opportunities.
Posted by: ottnott at June 7, 2013 11:33 PM
Steven K asks: "If the WCIJ is so important to UW, why don't they make it an affiliate?"
I can't tell if you are being dense or being argumentative. This is another question that shows little attempt to understand the situation.
UW and WCIJ have made an arrangement that produces mutual benefit in an area where their missions overlap - encouraging and training prospective investigative journalists.
A formal affiliation has the downside of squeezing the incompatible portions of the missions together. And there is substantial further downside to WCIJ if its funds and spending were put under the control of UW policies and procedures.
I don't see any upside to formal affiliation. I gather from your comments that you find non-cash exchanges "non-transparent". Yet, formal affiliation would not increase transparency. In the current arrangement, there is a contract which describes the consideration WCIJ is providing for the space/services. If WCIJ was brought into UW proper, there would be no contract necessary for the space and so no description of consideration would be necessary.
What you might not understand is that demand for space exceeds supply on most campuses with substantial research activity. The first to complain about space not contributing sufficiently to the university mission likely would be faculty within the department that controls the space. Those faculty have their own visions of activities that would require space, and the faculty would raise hell if they were denied space while an outside group contributed little educational benefit in return for campus space.
Posted by: ottnott at June 8, 2013 01:02 AM
tj asks for the details of the contract:"Details please"
The contract may be downloaded from the WCIJ web site.
Posted by: ottnott at June 8, 2013 01:17 AM
The above discussion mostly stayed on topic, which is good.
The bigger question behind this discussion is whether or not Universities should teach students how to do investigative journalism. On the one hand, a market for such talent exists. On the other hand, investigative journalism speaks truth to power. Those of us who identify with the underdog, the less powerful, welcome investigative journalism. Those who identify with the powerful wish it did not exist.
I salute the U. of Wisconsin. May its tribe continue.
Posted by: ReformerRay at June 9, 2013 02:48 PM
more great stuff from the wisconsiin republicans: http://www.twincities.com/politics/ci_23433698/wisconsin-abortion-ultrasound-bill-gets-senate-vote
transvaginal ultrasounds anyone?
just another non-partisan, non-petty, non-vindictive, even handed action by the republican saints in wisconsin
Posted by: anon2 at June 12, 2013 11:48 AM