In asking a circuit court to set aside Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's demand for information about climatologist and former professor Michael Mann, the University of Virginia has taken a strong stand in defense of academic freedom. Planting a flag on the moral high ground, rector John Wynne says the school is fighting for nothing less than "the basic principles on which our country was founded."It's obvious that UVa's selective interest in academic freedom and justice smacks of gutter hypocrisy.
... UVa would have done its case a world of good if the school had had its come-to-Jesus moment a little earlier. The scholars who are now in high dudgeon over Cuccinelli's inquiry took a remarkably blasé attitude when former Gov. Tim Kaine and environmental activists drove Pat Michaels, also a UVa climatology professor, out of both that position and his role as state climatologist.
Nor did the academic community seem the least upset when Greenpeace filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding the same sort of information about Michaels that Cuccinelli is demanding about Mann. There have been no Faculty Senate resolutions deploring Greenpeace's demand. No hiring of outside counsel to fight it. Casteen has not lamented about Greenpeace's inquiry, as he has about Cuccinelli's, that it "may be as much a political gesture as a search for scientific truth."
But still. If officials there want to play that game, the Competitive Enterprise Institute is willing to engage. UVa has its undies in a bunch over the heavy hand of government going on a witch hunt but doesn't have a problem at all with requests from private entities seeking documents? Fine:
CEI Seeks Climategate- and FOIA-Related Documents from University of VirginiaWill the University of Virginia comply with CEI's request as it so readily did to that of Greenpeace? I wouldn't count on it. Ethical and moral outrage, it now appears, can be turned off and on depending on who it is that is "witch-hunting."
By Richard Morrison, CEI
Washington, D.C., May 24, 2010—On Friday the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington, DC free-market think tank, filed a Request seeking records from the University of Virginia under that state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). CEI seeks, among other records, those elaborating UVA's procedure and rationale for disparately maintaining and releasing faculty records, particularly those of certain faculty who have left the University. CEI also seeks certain other "Climategate"-related records.
Earlier this month UVA’s policies and practices regarding document retention and provision became the focus of national attention thanks to a distinct inquiry under a taxpayer protection statute by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. As has also become known, if the subject of less media interest, UVA has refused a FOIA Request for the files of former Associate Professor Michael E. Mann on the basis that Mann’s records were destroyed by virtue of his having left the school.
Inconsistently, however, UVA has acknowledged retaining, and is preparing to provide the pressure group Greenpeace with, files of former Research Professor Patrick J. Michaels. Michaels had worked in, and also departed, the same department as Mann. Michaels asserts that the school informed him that some people’s records are treated differently than others'. CEI expects to learn the basis for and means of such disparate treatment.
CEI Counsel and Senior Fellow Christopher C. Horner, who filed the Request, states "Given what we know we about UVA’s practices we are curious about their internal policies and deliberations, among other issues apparently made relevant by the University’s inconsistent words and deeds. For example, have they considered possible taxpayer exposure to claims of ‘malice’, for example?" [link]