More Wisconsin Shenanigans

Today my article on Slate is about what happened when a very well-regarded and well-meaning professor at UW-Madison tried to warn incoming students that thanks to their dipshit governor, their university is about to become one step away from DeVry. Something I didn’t even get to touch on in the article, though (because it was sort of beside the point and a little long) is that the pitchfork-wielding mob that came after Sara Goldrick-Rab is the same one that came after Zandria Robinson and Saida Grundy before her (difference being that the attacks on Robinson and Grundy were substantially worse, because they are women of color). That is, all these brilliant and accomplished women have had their character and activism questioned because some girlfriendless College-Republican twit had nothing better to do than find their tweets and make a big obnoxious stink about it.

No, I don’t know for sure that College Republicans are always sad and girlfriendless, but it’s my semi-educated guess that dudes with girlfriends don’t usually have hours to comb through Twitter looking for “racism against white people.” But the question remains: Why do these little shits currently have such a stranglehold on the narrative of which professors get their lives upended for daring to have an opinion in public? Why does the mainstream media (ME INCLUDED) say “SURE!” when they demand something be made into “a thing”?

It’s fine if Drudge Juniors want to fixate on some benign Twitter stream that fits their preferred narrative of the university as a fortress of homosexual socialist welfare cheats out to convert rosy-cheeked youngsters to Foucaultism. But why does the national media always follow suit? Why did I just write this story at all?!? Is it because, duly shameful, I know that the theater of the attacked rabble-rouser makes great copy, and has since time immemorial? In 1211 some unscrupulous scribe probably circulated Who Bee a Wytche? to uproarious result, and we’ve been “obligated” to report on witch-hunts ever since.

Maybe it’s because I feel like it’s my duty to use my undeserved but nevertheless large platform to outshame the shamers. I’m going to go ahead and decide it is, to make myself feel better. Anyway, I worked really hard on the story (like I told a Twitter reader the other day, now I work many times harder than I used to, just to be barely as good as I once was), so I hope you like it, and I hope it does Sara’s sheroics justice.

Thanks for reading, as always!

3 thoughts on “More Wisconsin Shenanigans

  1. Walker is very scary. And now he’s being joined by a much saner-SOUNDING swing state governor with an abysmal record regarding unions. How was Kasich for THE Ohio State?Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2015 16:30:52 +0000 To:


  2. There are some important differences between the case of Sara G-R and the other recent faculty cases you mention. For one, G-R was expressing a criticism of her state government, and the right of public employees to criticize their employers is not absolute, but has a number of qualifications to it. The National Labor Relations Act protects employees in the private sector in such cases, but NLRA does not apply to public employees. Sara G-R was not simply criticizing the University of Wisconsin, which might be allowed under the university’s conception of academic freedom, but her criticism of Walker might not be covered by that. The case law on the issue is complex and not very clear in a case such as this. How this case would stand under the Pickering-Connick Test, for example, and the Hazelwood standard, is open to question. I assume that Zandria R’s case is now moot, and Saida G. teaches to Boston U., a private university that cannot punish her for public statements under NLRA. Public employees should not be wimps about criticizing their employers, but should do so in a way that is protected, and simple first amendment rights or academic freedom are often not sufficient.


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