ACLU, AAUP, Dems criticize Cuccinelli on academic freedom

Edited by Chris Graham

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s curious move to subpoena the University of Virginia regarding research done by climate scientist Michael Mann has drawn the ire of groups including the ACLU, the American Association of University Professors and the Virginia Democratic Party.

“Virginia is home to some of the finest universities in the country. Parents send their children to our schools because they will receive a high quality education, not to be subject to Ken Cuccinelli’s ideological influence,” said Dick Cranwell, chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. “This is just the latest ‘big government’ abuse by a self-proclaimed conservative. In Cuccinelli’s world, government overreach is something other people do.”

The American Association of University Professors and the ACLU of Virginia, for their part, have asked UVa. to fight the request from Cuccinelli for documents related to Mann’s research.

“The breadth of Attorney General Cuccinelli’s request suggests that it is meant to intimidate faculty members and discourage them from pursuing politically controversial work; it’s a shot across the bow to all public universities in Virginia,” said Rachel Levinson, senior counsel with the American Association of University Professors. “Cuccinelli’s injection of politics into the academic arena is profoundly counter not only to the interests of scholars in climate science but to the interests of the state’s flagship institution in academic excellence and dispassionate inquiry and to the public interest as a whole in vigorous debate.”

“If the attorney general is merely trying to discredit a scientist with whom he disagrees on climate change, that’s a shameful abuse of his office and a real threat to academic freedom in Virginia,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.

“But even if the attorney general’s concerns about fraud are sincere, the University should still ask a judge to determine which, if any, of the documents must be turned over,” Willis said. “To simply roll over whenever an AG demands information sets a bad precedent that could chill university-based scientific inquiry of any kind in Virginia now and in the future.”

In their letter to the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia, AAUP General Counsel Martha S. West and ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg write:

“The nature of scientific research is to generate debate both within and without the scientific community. Scientists within a field frequently disagree about methodological questions such as how data should be collected, which data are relevant, and how data should be analyzed and interpreted. If scientists refrain from novel methodological approaches because they may be characterized as “fraudulent,” then scientific research, and, by extension, society as a whole, will be the loser.”

A copy of the letter can be found online at:

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