Friday, May 28, 2010

U.Va Fights Back Against AG Cuccinelli Attack On Academic Freedom

Today's Washington Post metro section reports in "U-Va begins court fight of subpoena by Cuccinelli" that initially their Board was going to go along with his request for emails and records of climatologist and former Environmental Sciences prof, Michael Mann, father of the "hockey stick" diagram. However, piles of petitions from academics across the country, including critics of the scientific work of Mann, pushed them and U-Va prez John Casteen to change their stance and resist the demand by their supposed attorney. After all, the state attorney general is supposedly the attorney of state agencies like the University of Virginia, so it is a bit odd for them to be in a court against each other.

Quite aside from the matter of political attacks on academic freedom involved here, Cuccinelli seems not to have much of a leg to stand on regarding even the trival legal issues. So, he is acting on the basis of an anti-fraud statute passed in 2002 that is to catch people engaging in fraud with state funds. Mann got five grants for his research, but four of them were federal grants, and the only one that was a state grant was granted in 2001, the year before the statute was passed.

Now there are people defending this outrageous nonsense, such as Sheldon Steinbach, "a lawyer who represented the American Council of Education for 37 years," who defended Cuccinelli. "Sometimes upon more detailed explanation you might determine people have, indeed, cooked the books." Let us be clear. This is not a matter of Mann "cooking the books" to waste state funds on prostitutes in Las Vegas. Cuccinelli is hoping to find something like the "use a trick" quote from the East Anglia climategate emails, which is not a matter of "cooking books" but simply a reference to using better statistical methods, as anybody who knows anything about this knows. Apparently Steinback is not among them.

In any case, I applaud the Board and the President at the University of Virginia for standing up to this utterly indefensible assault on academic freedom by the Commonwealth's Attorney General. More power to them, and may the courts rule in their favor. As it is, President Casteen has accurately stated that, "The attorney general's order has sent a chill throught the Commonwealth's colleges and universities."

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