Wisconsin Governor Set to Sign Budget Sunday; No Word on Veto of Unconstitutional Provision

By on June 27, 2013

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has announced that he plans to sign the state’s budget on Sunday, but has not indicated whether he plans to veto an unconstitutional provision forbidding University of Wisconsin (UW) faculty from collaborating with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ). Students, faculty, journalists, and nonprofit organizations including FIRE have criticized the provision for its infringement on academic freedom.   The provision reads:  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. [Emphasis added.] FIRE wrote two letters to Governor Walker explaining that this broad, vague prohibition violates the First Amendment and academic freedom. As we wrote in our first letter: [T]he Joint Finance Committee’s proposed prohibition is extreme in its breadth, preventing faculty from performing any number of academic functions. For example, under the ban, faculty would be unable to read or discuss articles published by the WCIJ, to comment to WCIJ reporters on issues related to their scholarship or on matters of public concern, to assign WCIJ articles to students, or to cite WCIJ work in their research. The ban’s vagueness is similarly problematic, as it forces faculty to guess at the precise boundaries of the ban on “any work related to the Center,” no matter how seemingly remote. Laboring under the chilling effect engendered by such uncertainty, many faculty will rationally choose to self-censor—a deeply depressing outcome that contradicts the necessary function of our nation’s public universities. For these reasons, the ban is flatly unconstitutional and must be rescinded. With no clear sign as to whether the budget will be enacted as it was passed by the state legislature, concerned citizens and groups are continuing to implore Governor Walker to veto this provision. The Wausau Daily Herald Media wrote a guest editorial for the Oshkosh Northwestern yesterday pointing to this provision and a few other controversial budget items. 

Schools: University of Wisconsin System Cases: Wisconsin: Bill to Forbid Professors from Working with Journalism Organization