Academic Freedom.  Don’t you love it?  I do. But I have noticed in my work that these days, AF tends to be a one way street—protecting those with “approved” views, but leaving heterodox thinkers twisting in the wind of denied tenure, teaching  “punishment” undergrad classes, losing of lab space, refused permission to publish in journals or present at symposia, etc.  You get the picture.

UVA has apparently shown another form of discriminatory conduct toward its former professors with differing views.  One is a skeptic, named Pat Michaels. The other, Michael Mann, a famous alarmist.  FOIA requests were issued for emails from both.  They were gladly given up for one.  But for the other, they were held tightly to the vest, with $500,000 in public money spent in legal fees  to keep the professor’s communications private.

I’ll bet you can guess which is which.  If not, from the story:

Chris Horner, working with the American Tradition Institute, had  filed a freedom of information request with the University of Virginia for emails and materials former UVA Prof. Michael Mann generated during his time at the school. What we learned from our interview with Horner is jaw-dropping. When what Horner termed “a gaggle of pressure groups” got wind of people lurking around Mann’s emails, they descended on UVA stating, in effect “don’t you dare co-operate with law enforcement to release the records the taxpayer paid for in a fraud pre-investigation under a statute that passed unanimously [in the Virginia General Assembly],” that nowhere provides an exemption for academics.

Horner says that once these groups made their displeasure known, UVA “reversed course” and decided to fight, spending “$500,000 with [former U.S. Senator] John Warner’s law firm in Washington, D.C. to keep the taxpayer from seeing the records.” He recounts how he discovered UVA had a FOIA compliance officer – the same office that was eager to turn over the emails of former university climate scientist Pat Michaels to Greenpeace (once the group paid the appropriate fee) – and decided to file his own FOIA request for Mann’s emails.

But we know all this. UVA and the interest groups have been in Mann’s corner, fighting Ken Cuccinelli’s request for documents for months.  But it was that Greenpeace request of UVA for Pat Michaels’ work product that has legs. The environmental group filed similar requests with other institutions seeking the records of climate skeptics, and in a couple of cases, mounted campaigns to have those skeptics fired from their positions. Where were the voices of academic freedom of expression during those campaigns? Sitting on their hands. Now, though, they have sprung into action because Michael Mann, who shares their climate change beliefs, is under what they deem to be attack.

I don’t care which side either of these professors is on: No viewpoint discrimination! The law should be followed equally and consistently in each case, with both professors treated in the same manner.  But we know the game that is being played.

Hello, believers in global warming!  Here’s another example of actions that hurt the credibility of your cause.

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

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