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Posted on Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 12:35 p.m.

Wayne State removes part of Labor Studies website in wake of Mackinac Center FOIA

By Staff

Wayne State University has taken down parts of its Labor Studies Center website following Freedom of Information Act inquiries from a Midland-based think tank, according to a report today from the national political news site Talking Points Memo.

Lawyers are reviewing whether the parts of the site violate rules against using state resources in political advocacy.

The Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed FOIA requests last month seeking emails from labor studies departments at public universities in Michigan, including the University of Michigan, that mention collective bargaining in Wisconsin, where workers have protested Gov. Scott Walker's attempts to cut benefits. The FOIA also sought emails containing the terms "Scott Walker," "Wisconsin," "Madison" or "Maddow," referring to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.

Since then, the center reported that it's received death threats. It has called the FOIA of the emails routine.

On Thursday, a group of Michigan State University professors plans to hold a news conference in Midland announcing they are submitting their own FOIA of the Mackinac Center, reports WNEM in Saginaw.

The professors told the TV station that they considered the center's request an attack on academic freedom and unions.


Moscow On The Huron

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 5:28 p.m.

Wasn't the left calling this a "witch hunt?" The only problem with that is that witch hunts never find anything. The removal of this Web site is an admission that something illegal was going on.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

Forever27... I agree: "god forbid the Labor Studies Center advocate for labor policy..." How about: God forbid that a University studies department be a neutral actor when it comes to education! It's sad that people feel that University departments should be advocates for any particular political view. There are two sides to every "labor studies" issue or their wouldn't be a department teaching the subject. I don't want my tax dollars going to yet another mouthpiece of the leftist agenda. I know that is a futile wish in a University setting, but I can still speak against it (for now). Why are the Professors, and Jack Lessenberry worried about an FOIA request? Do they have something to hide? How does the spreading of information through an FOIA request turn into "a thuggish attempt to intimidate professors and cast a chilling effect over what should be uncensored academic debate". Methinks he's getting his Liberal panties in a bunch over something that would be cheered if the request was going the other way. Which it sounds like it is.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 11:57 a.m.

The train is at the station. It is raining on the union parade as they are exposed are takers and non producers.

Moscow On The Huron

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 12:47 p.m.

I have always wondered... If professors are so smart, why can't they negotiate their job with their employers on their own? Why do they need somebody else to do it for them? It works for the rest of us.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

Most union member are honest hardworking folks. It only takes pulling one wormy apple off a display at a store to get you to walk away from the produce department. I guess you found a wormy apple at some point in your life.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 11:40 p.m.

Rachel Maddow's eloquent opinion on the Mackinac Center's recent FOIA actions can be seen &amp; heard here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Here is an excerpt from Jack Lessenberry's opinion on the same matter, as published in this week's Detroit Metro Times: "Mackinac Center's McCarthyism: … Normally they crank out &quot;free-market&quot; analysis and policy prescriptions, most of the sort that crazy old Ayn Rand would love…. This is all harmless enough, and occasionally they even have made some sense on an issue or two. But now they are selling out to the right-wing thought police. Last week, the Mackinac Center filed Freedom of Information Act requests asking for all the e-mails sent by labor studies professors at Michigan's three major universities — Michigan State, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State — including such key words as &quot;Scott Walker&quot; and &quot;Madison.&quot; … Mackinac won't say why they are doing this, but it is clearly a thuggish attempt to intimidate professors and cast a chilling effect over what should be uncensored academic debate. "I was stunned that the Mackinac Center would do this ... until I learned, via Mother Jones magazine, that past major donors to the center have included the Charles Koch Foundation, established by the family that exists to make Satan look moderate. They also take money from the family that owns Wal-Mart, the DeVos family, and, best of all, a family that includes the founder of Blackwater, the infamous private security force."


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

Who listens to Rachel Maddow? I thought Air America went out of business because nobody listened to them!


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

If MSNBC were to FOIA the medical school somewhere on anti-abortion activities, the other side would be screaming about it. FOIA has no political leaning and it helps keep the world a bit more open and transparent. Having sat through training at a state university on FOIA, there is no question that the professors knew it was possible.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 5:01 a.m.

I don't think Lessenberry remembers much about McCarthyism. But it's always pleasant to invoke that form of Godwin's Law when you're supporting your cause. I'd be surprised if he wrote the part about &quot;uncensored academic debate&quot; with a straight face. The guy's smart, I know him fairly well, but he's a little too invested in the far, far left.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 3:37 a.m.

Speechless: If there was nothing wrong going on, why did Wayne State take down their Labor Studies website? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 1:24 a.m.

if whatthe Professors was all above board, why are they unwilling toshare their research and other documents, especially since they are employees of a public institutions, who cannot use State funds or facilities to advocate for, or consult for a particular political party or a particular political group? Anyways, if what the Makinac Center did was so out of line, woul dnayone care to explain why Wayne State U has taken down the website f their labor studies center?


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 1:20 a.m.

Lessenberry is hardly a credible commentator onthis issue. he writes for the metro Times, for heaven;s sake!!!

Moscow On The Huron

Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 11 p.m.

&quot;On Thursday, a group of Michigan State University professors plans to hold a news conference in Midland announcing they are submitting their own FOIA of the Mackinac Center,&quot; Really? FOIA requests of a private organization? I'm thinking I need to retract my statement about professors being smart.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 1:19 a.m.

That FOIA request by the MSU Professors is a really asinine move on their part. FOIA requests cannot be enforced against a private organization. I thought they would have known that, being Professors and all. :)


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 5:53 p.m.

Wayne State Shuts Down Website to Investigate Campaign Finance Concerns Raised by FOIA Debate By TOM GANTERT | April 7, 2011 <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

Obviously, Wayne State University's Labor Studies Center website cannot stand up to academic scrutiny. I wonder why &quot;The professors told the TV station that they considered the center's request an attack on academic freedom and unions.&quot; Professors are suppose to experts in their subject matter and be able to back up their claims. So, why don't the Professors blow the Mackinac Center for Public Policy out of the water with their expertise?

Moscow On The Huron

Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 10:57 p.m.

If they were done on University computers, using University email systems, while on University time, and/or in University property, then they're not personal. These are not clueless 18 year old frat boys who don't know any better. They're professors. They know the rules involving the use of publicly-owned resources for political purposes.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

Since when does &quot;academic scrutiny&quot; involve reading a professor's PERSONAL e-mails? Because that's what the Mackinac Center is doing. They are going on a fishing expedition through the private e-mails of academics, e-mails which almost certainly contain personal correspondence with friends, family and acquaintances. This is an intimidation tactic, nothing more.

David Briegel

Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

Read the preceding article about the relative safety of a union state versus an anti Union (right to work) state! America is actively rewarding those who oppose the advances of workplace safety for increased profits!


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

god forbid the Labor Studies Center advocate for labor policy...


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 12:41 p.m.

MSU has a center for the Study of Policy on Regulation. They study problems and lay out the facts on each side of the problem. They train regulators on how to look at issues. They do not advocate for any specific policy. Rather they study, analyze, and report. To my mind this is what an academic institution should do.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 11:35 p.m.

But there's a difference between research and making policy proposals &amp; recommendations vs engaging in political advocacy and taking sides in political campaigns (using state resources and funds). The same goes for churches and other non-profits, BTW. Advocacy is OK, but lobbying and electioneering are not.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 7:07 p.m.

mw, you couldn't be more incorrect. Regardless of your political ideology, research centers are there to do exactly this. They research policies, and make suggestions based on that research. That's the whole point of the research, otherwise, they wouldn't get grants and funding in the first place.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

No, not god, but rather state law. Or is political advocacy using state funds OK with you? Do you think it would be fine, for example, for state universities to use their facilities and funding to support a political candidate or party? A Labor Studies Center is supposed to *study* labor issues, not be a political advocate for labor (or for management either).

John of Saline

Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 5:06 p.m.

I had a U-M professor about ten years ago talk about FOIA and gave FOIA of a professor's hard drive as a possible example, given that U-M is a state university. He then paused, and said, &quot;Please don't FOIA my hard drive.&quot;