A conservative group seeking documents related to former University of Virginia professor Michael Mann has received records from the school Thursday in the wake of a judge’s order but remained mum as to what information they contained.
A Prince William County judge in May had ordered the university to turn over documents requested by the conservative-leaning, environmentally focused American Tradition Institute (ATI) that the group thought were not exempt from disclosure.
“The Environmental Law Center received, by the court-ordered due date, a 4.3-megabyte disk that contains 3,827 pages,” a statement posted to ATI’s website said Thursday. “The University has said in the past there are approximately 9,000 pages responsive to ATI’s [Freedom of Information Act] request. ATI is currently reviewing the documents provided by UVA and has no further comment at this time.”
University spokeswoman Carol Wood has said the university has been in “frequent and regular contact” with ATI’s attorneys, working to clarify their request and work out a “reasonably manageable process” to satisfy the public-information law.
ATI, along with state Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican, and state Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a global-warming skeptic, have been in pursuit of records related to Mr. Mann, who is behind the infamous “hockey stick” graph that documents a rapid rise in the earth’s temperature during the 20th century. Mr. Mann, now at Penn State University, has been widely cleared of academic misconduct.
The university had previously turned over 20 percent of the 9,000 pages of documents it says are responsive to ATI’s request.
Earlier this month, a coalition of groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Association of University Professors, wrote a letter to University President Teresa Sullivan expressing concern that the University of Virginia may grant ATI lawyers “needless access” to records, and that the May agreement “threatens the principles of academic freedom protecting scholarly research.”
But ATI officials shot back, saying that they were merely exercising their right to pursue the documents.
“Once again, these self-interested groups - who hope to protect their billions of dollars in government funding of dubious, unsupportable research - accuse ATI of ‘harassment and intimidation’ of scientists,” ATI Executive Director Paul Chesser said earlier this month. “It shows how blind they are to the fact that ATI has acted in the interest of sound, verifiable science and for the protection of the hard-earned money that taxpayers are forced to relinquish for such research.”