The Tension Between Academic Freedom and State Open Records Laws: Is There a Need for Re-Examination?

The Tension Between Academic Freedom and State Open Records Laws: Is There a Need for Re-Examination?
  • April 1, 2014 - 9:30 am to 4:00 pm EDT
Jack Morton Auditorium, The George Washington University
805 21st Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20052

This event is sponsored by the George Washington University Law School in collaboration with the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Science, Technology & Law.

In most states, university faculty members are state employees, and their records—both paper and electronic—are state records. That means that they are presumptively subject to state open records (FOIA) laws. The problem is best illustrated by a case heard by the Virginia Supreme Court in January that is expected to be decided very soon. In that case, the e-mails sent to and received by a former University of Virginia (UVA) faculty member dealing with his research on climate change are being sought by a group that has a different view of the science and is bringing five similar suits in Texas and Arizona.

There are two main goals of the April 1 conference. First, the program will inform faculty and the general public that the FOIA laws, which most people support, can have serious consequences for academic freedom. It will explore the kinds of records that are subject to those laws, including those that originate outside the state university, such as those from other academics, government agencies, or private individuals.

Second, the conference will explore solutions that both preserve academic freedom and recognize the right of the public to know how state funds are used. The latter discussion also will consider where the line might be drawn between a faculty member's publicly disclosable work and private work that should be exempt from disclosure under state FOIA laws.

Persons interested in attending are requested to register online. Further background on the issues, including the briefs in the Virginia case, papers by conference participants, and a more detailed program below. 

For additional information, please contact Kristen Pallmeyer at 202.994.4692.

Alan B. Morrison
Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest and Public Service

Anne-Marie Mazza
Director, Committee on Science, Technology & Law at the National Academy of Sciences


Briefs in American Tradition Institute v. University of Virginia

Other Materials

April 1, 2014 - 9:30 am EDT