The UW-Madison faculty governing group has admonished a controversial UW professor who has taken to Twitter, vociferously speaking out against the effects Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is having on the university.
Sara Goldrick-Rab went so far as to discourage future Badgers from coming to a university she believes has been crippled by a Republican-controlled state government. She also likened Walker to Adolf Hitler.
On Thursday, the University Committee put out a statement saying that it supports free speech and diversity of opinion, but that such freedom requires responsible behavior.
“In this respect we are deeply dismayed with the actions Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab has taken toward students and faculty on Twitter in recent weeks to discourage them from coming here,” read the statement, signed by five of the committee’s six members. “While claiming to stand for academic freedom, she has in fact damaged that principle and our institution with inaccurate statements and misrepresentations.”
The committee cited the university’s “extraordinary and distinguished record of teaching, research, and service to the people of Wisconsin and beyond.”
Goldrick-Rab, a tenured professor of educational policy studies and sociology, could not be reached Thursday night. But she has spoken publicly about using Twitter to contact future students to alert them of pending changes to faculty tenure and shared governance that she maintains will make their UW education suffer.
Anthony Birch, chairman of the UW-Madison’s College Republicans, called Goldrick-Rab’s behavior “completely reprehensible.”
“For her to go on and interact with graduating high school seniors, telling them not to come to our university, saying it would fall apart with the new Republican budget, we think, and the [executive committee of the] faculty senate thinks as well, is completely irresponsible,” Birch told the State Journal.
Goldrick-Rab’s interactions with the students took place in early June with a tweet aimed at a group of students who were tagged in a photo where a future student in a high school cap and gown wrote a caption “On (to) Wisconsin!”
“I hate to bring bad news but,” the professor tweeted before linking to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opinion piece headlined, “Threats to shared governance and tenure put mission of UW at risk.”
There were Twitter conversations between the parties with Goldrick-Rab making other disparaging remarks about the future value of a UW degree.
Some incoming students were grateful for Goldrick-Rab’s input. But others took offense and contacted the College Republicans, who Wednesday urged the university to address the matter.
It was a tweet on July 1 that invoked Hitler. “My grandfather, a psychologist, just walked me through similarities between Walker and Hitler. There are so many — it’s terrifying,” she wrote.
On Sunday, Goldrick-Rab took to the site, encouraging students to name their favorite UW-Madison professor. “Thanks to Walker,” she wrote, “I’m willing to bet they’re on the way out the door.”
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify, in the quote by Anthony Birch, that it was the University Committee, the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, that issued the public letter to Goldrick-Rab, not the full Senate.]