As many of you know, the University last year received a request under the Kansas Open Records Act for documents related to the University’s relationship with Koch Industries. Among other documents, the request sought certain emails sent and received by three School of Business faculty members. The state chapter of the AAUP supported that request and provided funding for it. After working with those faculty members, the University determined that some of those emails should be withheld, but others should be released under the terms of the Act.
In response, KU faculty member Arthur Hall sued the University and claimed that release of those records violated his constitutional right to academic freedom. Earlier this week, the University filed a legal brief that disputed Dr. Hall’s claim to such a constitutional right. Quotes from that filing have been taken out of context, and some faculty members have expressed concern that the University does not respect faculty rights.
We want to assure you that is not the case. From social media to research and instruction, the University strongly supports the First Amendment rights of faculty and the freedom of faculty to pursue the independent and uninhibited exchange of ideas. As a professional norm, that freedom is an important feature of academic life, and the University of Kansas supports it fully. As a constitutional right, however, that freedom has been rejected by federal cases.
The University will continue to support faculty members’ rights even as we strive to achieve the transparency required by Kansas Open Records laws.