After a veto from the governor removed the threat of a state investigative journalism office losing its space on campus, officials with the group are looking forward to even stronger campus partnerships.
Walker said in a statement targeting the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, housed in Vilas Hall at the University of Wisconsin, made the veto necessary because it targeted a single organization. Gov. ScottWalker, however, questioned the WCIJ’s use of UW facilities.
“The use of taxpayer-supported facilities by private or quasi-public organizations, as well as use of staff time in support of these organizations, is an issue of concern,” Walker said.
He said the UW System’s Board of Regents should take the reins in developing policies to address these concerns.
Center employees thanked Walker for allowing their organization and their work to continue and said the effort to end their agreement with UW has motivated them.
“Some in power are unhappy with our nonpartisan efforts, which aim to protect the vulnerable, expose wrongdoing and seek solutions,” WCIJ said in a statement. “Their actions tell us we are doing something right and need to do more of it.”
To celebrate Walker’s veto of the provision, the Center launched the WCIJ Education Fund, which is designed to support the internship program.
According to the university’s facilities use agreement, WCIJ has to hire three full-time paid interns during the summer, offer two part-time internships during the school year to UW students and provide educational support in classes and lectures in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in exchange for its use of space in Vilas. WCIJ receives no funding from UW.
Andy Hall, WCIJ director, said he is unsure why the measure was inserted into the budget since no one in the Legislature has publicly claimed responsibility for its authorship.
However, if WCIJ were forced to move, Hall said he is confident WCIJ would continue to survive and thrive as an organization. He added if WCIJ was taken off the UW campus, the students would be affected most.
“WCIJ would have found a way to continue its work with students, but being on the UW campus allows for a closer relationship with the students,” Hall said.
Greg Downey, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said he is glad the Center will remain at UW so students can intern and gain work experience.
“We really think this is a great example of both the ‘Wisconsin Idea’ – UW partnering with organizations in research and teaching in service to the state and the world – and the Wisconsin Experience – what makes an education at UW unique and valuable compared to the education one might receive at any other institution, large or small,” Downey said.
Hall said the organization deeply appreciates all the support for its work during this controversy.
“WCIJ has emerged stronger than ever thanks to the support of students, family members, academic organizations, journalists, journalism organizations and members of the public,” Hall said.
Aliya Iftikhar contributed to this story.