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Threat to Academic Freedom in Virginia

7/6/10 Update: A Pennsylvania State University investigative committee cleared Michael Mann of ethical misconduct.  Read the report (.pdf).

7/1/10 Update: The Union of Concerned Scientists issued a statement calling Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli 's formal response "riddled with inaccuracies."

6/30/10 Update: Lawyers representing the University of Virginia filed a brief Tuesday in Albemarle County Circuit Court supporting the University's May 27 petition to set aside Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli's Civil Investigative Demands.

5/28/10 Update: The University of Virginia will fight Cuccinnelli's subpoena. Read University of Virginia's petition (.pdf).

5/20/10 Update: On Tuesday, 39 professors at the University of Virginia Law School signed a letter  to University Rector John O. Wynne, urging the Board of Visitors to fight Cuccinelli's subpoena in court.

5/19/10 Update: The American Association for the Advancement of Science issued a statement asking Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli to either justify his investigation of climate researcher Michael Mann or end it.

5/17/10 Update: The Union of Concerned Scientists announced that more than 800 scientists and academics in Virginia, including nearly 300 from the University of Virginia, today sent a letter to Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, urging him to drop his investigation of former professor Michael Mann's scientific research.

5/13/10 Update: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to attorney general Cuccinelli. (.pdf)

5/7/10 Update:  The Virginia AAUP conference also sent attorney general Cuccinelli a letter asking him to rescind his order.  Read the letter. (.pdf)


May 6, 2010
AAUP:  John Curtis, Director of Research and Public Policy
ACLU of VA: Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director, 804-644-8080 or Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8080

AAUP and ACLU Ask UVA to Resist Attorney General ’s Attempt to Subpoena Records of Climate Science Professor

Charlottesville, VA—The American Association of University Professors and the ACLU of Virginia have asked the University of Virginia to fight demands from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for documents related to the research of a global warming expert once employed by the school.

According to news reports, Cuccinelli believes that former UVA professor Michael Mann may have violated the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act when seeking state funding for his research.  Mann, now employed by Penn State University, used his research at UVA to assert a scientific basis for global warming.

Rachel Levinson, senior counsel with the American Association of University Professors, said, “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.  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,” added Willis.  “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.”

While the Attorney General may seek records through a “civil investigative demand” when he has reason to believe that fraud against the state has been committed, Virginia law also gives the University the right to petition the circuit court to modify or set aside the demand.
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. 

American Association of University Professors, Rachel Levinson, Senior Counsel,, 202-737-5900 x. 117
John Curtis, Director of Research and Public Policy,, 202-737-5900 x. 143.

American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director, 804-644-8080
Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8080 or 804-399-4191(cell)

The American Association of University Professors is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, shared governance and standards of quality in higher education. The AAUP has over 48,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Media Contact: 
John Curtis
Publication Date: 
Thursday, May 27, 2010