Judge Halts Politically Motivated FOIA Request Against Conservative Professor

December 12, 2014

By Greg Piper at The College Fix

The executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas won’t be subject to further requests for his email correspondence by a student group critical of his work – at least for a while.

A county judge issued a temporary restraining order against the university from releasing further email correspondence by Art Hall after the professor filed a lawsuit to block its release, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said.

The group Students for a Sustainable Future wants information on “Hall’s relationship to Charles and David Koch, who are substantial donors to the University,” FIRE said. Hall previously worked with Koch Industries.

Hall wrote an op-ed in the Lawrence Journal-World that this request threatens academic freedom everywhere:

A student group at KU that disagreed with testimony I delivered on a specific piece of legislation used the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) to request copies of my private e-mail correspondence for the past 10 years. This is a misuse of open-records law, a type of misuse that seems to be spreading nationwide. The policy intent of open-records laws is to aid the transparency of government operations and deliberations, not to suppress debate and free academic inquiry. …

If my private, personal communications are released, I will not be the only one whose academic freedom is jeopardized. The issue is much larger and could ultimately jeopardize the academic freedom of any scholar at a public institution of higher education.

 

Hall notes that, oddly, the Kansas chapter of the American Association of University Professors – which normally defends professors against intrusions into their correspondence – “reportedly provided funding to the student group seeking my private documents.”

FIRE notes in its post that groups on both the right and left have sought to use public-records laws against academics whose work they dislike, including former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelliagainst the controversial climate scientist and former University of Virginia professor Michael Mann.

Schools: University of Kansas