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Academic freedom vs disclosure

Just last month, Virginia’s high court upheld the University of Virginia’s right not to disclose a professor’s emails about his work on climate change to a conservative organization that requested their release under the Freedom of Information Act.images-1 InsideHigher Ed reports that "Now the university is again being asked to disclose a faculty member’s email correspondence and other personal records -- this time by a gay rights advocacy group that says it’s concerned that the work of renowned Constitutional law professor Douglas Laycock is being used to support anti-gay and pro-life legislation. "Although the two Virginia requests came from different sides of the political aisle, experts say they raise similar issues. Namely, experts say, FOIA requests regarding professors’ preliminary scholarship and personal correspondence walk a fine line between ensuring transparency in public institutions and infringing on academic freedom. The newest case is particularly notable due to Laycock's eminence in the field and the fact that he is married to U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan. "Earlier this month, the university received a FOIA request from two students, in consultation with GetEQUAL, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocacy group based in Berkeley, Calif. The request seeks access to emails to and from Laycock’s university account to three conservative political organizations, along with phone records from the professor’s work cell phone from January 2012 to May of this year and expense reports for travel during the same period. The request also seeks access to relevant emails sent to and from the professor’s assistant, and the professor’s employment contract. The request says: “At the heart of this [FOIA] request is a general concern University of Virginia resources may have been used to help finance causes that are perpetuating harm to [LGBT] individuals and the reproductive rights of women across the country, including here on UVA’s campus.”

It continues: “It has come to my attention that Professor Laycock has become a central figure in several, recent high-profile political and legal actions that have caused grave concern within both the LGBT equality and women’s health movements.”
The letter was written by Gregory Lewis and Stephanie Montenegro, both seniors at Virginia. In an interview, Montenegro said she was an ally of the LGBT community and concerned about women’s reproductive rights. To that end, she said she felt that having as much information as possible about Laycock’s research and how it was being used would help facilitate future dialogues on campus.”
Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/05/29/gay-rights-groups-foia-request-professors-research-pits-privacy-vs-academic-freedom#ixzz338eq6vDI
Inside Higher Ed

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