Letter: Academic integrity

To the editor:

We read with interest Art Hall’s assertion that his professional communications with the Koch Brothers should not be made public. A main argument is that if these communications were divulged, such an action would, somehow, interfere with his academic freedom. As the state’s principal champion of academic freedom, the state of Kansas Conference of the American Association of University Professors regularly defends this quintessential principle.

One thing is clear here: This issue is NOT about academic freedom, rather accountability and scholarly integrity. As a public servant, Hall and all scholars in publicly funded institutions have a duty to be open and transparent to both the people and the wider academic community. We find it reprehensible that Hall would seek to hide his professional communications and use academic freedom as the justification. If a precedent is set which allows any public employee engaging in scholarly endeavors at a public institution to hide his/her professional communications with agents who are funding the work, then it can call into question all such research at so-funded institutions and thereby damage the reputation of the institution as a whole.  

As most know, the academic reputations of institutions across Kansas have suffered mightily in the wake of recent scandals as instructors are under threat of dismissal just for communicating opinions. However, a reputational threat which is just as serious comes if Kansas’ institutions are seen as nothing more than mouthpieces of private organizations and wealthy individuals operating with neither accountability nor public scrutiny.