Home Virginia Politics Washington Post: UVA Should Fight Cooch’s “politically tinged witch hunt”

Washington Post: UVA Should Fight Cooch’s “politically tinged witch hunt”


For once, I completely agree with the Washington Post editorial board on something.

By equating controversial results with legal fraud, Mr. Cuccinelli demonstrates a dangerous disregard for scientific method and academic freedom. The remedy for unsatisfactory data or analysis is public criticism from peers and more data, not a politically tinged witch hunt or, worse, a civil penalty. Scientists and other academics inevitably will get things wrong, and they will use public funds in the process, because failure is as important to producing good scholarship as success. For the commonwealth to persecute scientists because one official or another dislikes their findings is the fastest way to cripple not only its stellar flagship university, but also its entire public higher education system.

That’s why the university should immediately challenge the attorney general’s “civil investigative demand” for documents, which the law allows, and which a university spokeswoman says it is considering. It’s also why Mr. McDonnell should condemn the attorney general and aid the university, making it clear that Mr. Cuccinelli speaks only for himself.

Further, I strongly agree with the Post that UVA needs to fight back against Cooch’s “war on the freedom of academic inquiry,” and that Bob McDonnell needs to “repudiate Mr. Cuccinelli’s abuse of the legal code.” As the Post writes, if UVA and McDonnell don’t fight back against Cooch, “the quality of Virginia’s universities will suffer for years to come.” That’s completely unacceptable.

P.S. The next 3 years, 8 months under Grand Inquisitor Cuccinelli are going to be a nightmare. Whoever thought that Cooch would make a better AG than Steve Shannon needs to have their heads examined, pronto.

UPDATE #1: It looks like UVA will not resist Cooch’s subpoena. That’s very unfortunate.

UPDATE #2: Science Magazine publishes a letter from 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences decrying “the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular.”  With regard to climate science, the letter asserts (correctly), that “there is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.”  It adds (also correctly) that “recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence.” Very true.

  • kindler

    Per the Augusta Free Press.  Key quotes:

    “The breadth of Attorney General Cuccinelli’s request suggests that it is meant to intimidate faculty members and discourage them from pursuing politically controversial work; it’s a shot across the bow to all public universities in Virginia,” said Rachel Levinson, senior counsel with the American Association of University Professors. “Cuccinelli’s injection of politics into the academic arena is profoundly counter not only to the interests of scholars in climate science but to the interests of the state’s flagship institution in academic excellence and dispassionate inquiry and to the public interest as a whole in vigorous debate.”

    “If the attorney general is merely trying to discredit a scientist with whom he disagrees on climate change, that’s a shameful abuse of his office and a real threat to academic freedom in Virginia,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.