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Opinion/Letter: UVa keeps secret what it shouldn't

Opinion/Letter: UVa keeps secret what it shouldn't

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The University of Virginia continues to be a fount of controversy.

Even a past university-related controversy refuses to stay silenced.

Ex-UVa professor Michael Mann made headlines in a Washington Post article on July 16, 2014: “Virginia Supreme Court has ordered the conservative nonprofit Energy and Environmental Legal Institute to pay $250 in damages to the University of Virginia and a climate scientist who previously worked there. The organization lost a lawsuit in April against the University of Virginia and scientist Michael E. Mann, with the state’s high court ruling that Mann’s unpublished research and e-mails about global warming, written when he was still at the school, were exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.”

On Feb. 24 of this year, The Washington Post reported: “Rep. Raul Grijalva (D- Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, sent requests to seven universities asking for detailed records on the funding sources for affiliated researchers who have opposed the scientific consensus on man-made global warming. Grijalva cited concerns over possible conflicts of interest involving scientists who have sought to influence the public debate on climate…”  The request implies personal bias in research findings.

On March 17, UVa was sued for the old, non-research records of Michael Mann. Matthew Hardin, a Virginia law school graduate, filed suit against the rector and Board of Visitors after the school had denied access to Mann’s non-research emails. Hardin retained the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic to represent him, claiming: “It’s clear UVA is improperly withholding records they must release. They charged me hundreds of dollars and failed to produce even documents that they’ve admitted to having and some which they released before.”

Perhaps provoked by Grijalva’s implications of scientific bias, this lawsuit focuses on alleged bias in the non-scientific communications of Mann. 

Freedom of Information requests seeking evidence of such bias should be welcomed by those concerned with upholding transparency in university faculty activities. It is unfortunate that it takes a lawsuit to obtain that which should come naturally to an institution founded by Thomas Jefferson.

Charles G. Battig

Albemarle County

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