by Ethan Hollenberger
In January, Young America's Foundation exposed
an entirely liberal lecture series at the University of Wisconsin -
Whitewater. The school spent over $52,000 of taxpayer money on a line-up of left
The lecture series lineup for next year is nearly set. Based on
previous years, contracts should be extended to all invited
speakers. To see if the University had heeded public
disappointment, an open records request was filed on April 17. The
request asked for any record that listed the speaker candidates and
for "any contracts either signed or pending".
Sara Kuhl, the University spokesperson, responded quickly: "I
have contacted Dr. [Susan] Johnson and no decisions have been made yet on
next year's list of speakers. - Sara"
After being asked again for records, the spokesman lamented in
an email, "Because the speakers have not been selected the list is
a working draft and is not for release. We'll be happy to share the
list with you when it has been finalized."
In passing, Kuhl declared the contracts "drafts." Kuhl is
attempting to stonewall the request by citing an exemption in
In an email on May 2, Kuhl was notified she was unlawfully
ignoring the request. Under Wisconsin open records law, Kuhl has
the burden of proof when determining if a record is a "draft" under
A letter from the University of Wisconsin System's attorney
Jennifer Lattis on May 3, declares again the contracts to be a
"draft." Lattis further notes, "Even if a non-finalized contract
was not a draft under the statutory exception, we would not release
such records under the balancing test of Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(a).
The public interest in protecting the ability of the University to
negotiate speaker contracts confidentially in order to obtain the
best program and price for the University outweighs the public
interest in release of such information prematurely."
Lattis contends it is not in the best public interest for
taxpayers to know before a contract is signed how much money the
University is going to spend. These are the same taxpayers who
found out the University System had a
hidden $650 million surplus.
Interestingly, both Sara
Kuhl and Attorney Jennifer
Lattis appear to have signed the recall petition against
conservative Governor Scott Walker.
It remains to be seen why the University won't release the
speaker candidates for the taxpayer funded lecture