Indefensible Defense of Michael Mann

Yesterday a dozen liberal and academic groups rose in defense of Penn State Climategate scientist Michael Mann, making up reasons such as “academic freedom” to deny American Tradition Institute‘s request for Mann’s emails and records from the University of Virginia, his previous employer.

ATI, where I am executive director, is asking for similar records that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has asked for under the state’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, but has been denied so far by the university and lower courts. We requested the documents under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. Both of us are curious about Mann’s activities at UVA when he came up with that “Hockey Stick” temperature chart that ignored the Medieval Warm Period, but helped fuel the AlGorean chants of global warming alarmism a few years ago. He got government grants for his work.

The defenders of Mann include the ACLU of Virginia, People for the American Way, American Association of University Professors, Council of Environmental Deans and Directors, Union of Scientists Concerned About Their Grant Funding, and that heavyweight of heavyweights, The Ornithological Council. From their collective authorship:

The undersigned organizations, dedicated both to academic freedom and the exchange of scholarly and scientific ideas and to the critically important ideals of government transparency that are embodied by FOIA, urge the University of Virginia to…balanc(e) the interests in public disclosure against the public interest in academic freedom, which the University of Virginia has recognized in its faculty handbook as “an essential ingredient of an environment of academic excellence.”

Unfortunately university faculty handbooks don’t trump state laws, as ATI explained in our response to the groups’ letter:

ATI’s FOIA request is not on behalf of government, but of taxpayers, who have the right to know how and where their dollars are spent – or misspent. “Academic freedom” is not a legitimate exemption, any more than “bureaucratic freedom” is an acceptable exemption for state government employees. The coverage of state universities is very clear in Virginia’s Freedom of Information laws.

ATI’s Chris Horner also notes in our response how these groups were missing in action on the “academic freedom” front when Greenpeace demanded the records of Mann’s former UVA colleague, Patrick Michaels, a climate alarmism skeptic. Same goes for several other skeptical scientists at other institutions where Greenpeace inquired.

In other Penn State news, I see that “The Amazing Revkin,” who also goes by Andy, will be featured at the university’s 2011 Colloquium on the Environment. PSU describes in part the New York Times blogger with this laugh line: “While the media largely ignored the climate story until the last several years, Revkin spent more than 20 years immersed in this subject….”

The story of Andy as pioneer — ought to be fun.