William Cronon, an environmental historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has recently become embroiled in political controversy in a striking echo of the case of Michael Mann, a climatologist at Penn State. In both cases, Republican politicians have sought access to their academic email accounts in what many are calling an effort to intimidate not only Cronon and Mann, but any academic who conducts research or expresses opinions that could been interpreted as oppositional to neoliberal anti-regulatory ideology. It is of note that both universities are publicly funded, providing an opening and justification for the attacks.
Could the academy as a whole be better prepared for increasingly confrontational interactions in the public arena? Many current academic practices (eg. publishing in obscure journals) and justifications can appear self-interested. How might academics buttress their role as citizens? Is an institutional approach necessary or even possible?