KU business teacher calls students’ records request politically motivated, malicious

Art Hall, director of the Center for Applied Economics at Kansas University, testifies to the House Tax Committee in this file photo from January 2010.

A student requesting a Kansas University business lecturer’s emails is trying to obtain information for a “political attack” to cause “personal and professional damage” to him, the latest filing in the case of Art Hall v. KU alleges.

In a memorandum filed Tuesday in Douglas County District Court, Art Hall said KU student Schuyler Kraus — while voicing no objection to professors linked to “liberal environmentalist donors or causes” — filed the broad Kansas Open Records Act request for his emails and other documents to advance her own political agenda.

“The abuse of state open records requests and freedom of information act requests is the latest tactic in a long battle against academic freedom,” Hall’s attorney Curt Tideman writes in the document. “Political organizations and individuals like Kraus abuse these requests to publicly disgrace, maliciously portray and silence professors they ideologically oppose in hopes that the professors will refrain from their research, speech and other studies.”

Hall is founding executive director of the Center for Applied Economics, a public policy think-tank within KU’s School of Business, and has authored numerous publications on its behalf. Previously Hall was chief economist for the Public Sector Group of Koch Industries Inc.

Kraus filed the records request last year on behalf of the student organization she is president of, Students for a Sustainable Future. It’s one of a network of groups nationwide attempting to investigate the influence that brothers Charles and David Koch, conservative activist billionaires who own Wichita-based Koch Industries, have on academia.

In previous interviews Kraus has said the impetus behind her investigation is not politically motivated, but rather is a push for more transparency in academia.

Hall said in the memorandum there is nothing illegal, immoral or deceptive in his emails. He argues various points about the students’ records request, including saying that the Center for Applied Economics is self-funded, personal emails on the university server are not subject to the open records act and that Kraus has not seen the documents she’s arguing are public.

David Brown, the attorney representing Kraus, said his client does not intend to use information from KU to attack anyone.

“I can categorically deny that she intends to attack or cause any professional damage to any individual,” Brown said. “My client’s goal is to get at the truth of who is funding research at the university… She wants to show the extent of the influence of corporate dollars on the educational experience.”

Students for a Sustainable Future paid KU $1,800 to fulfill an open records request last fall and received some of what they wanted, but Hall sued the university and the court blocked KU from handing over additional documents — including Hall’s emails — pending further review.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for May 27.

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