Through the activist group Virginia Student Power Network, GetEQUAL found two UVA students willing to take up the cause of calling out Laycock: rising fourth-year Greg Lewis and now-alum Stephanie Montenegro. Last week, the pair sent an open letter to Laycock asking him to consider the “real-world consequences that [his] work is having.” They also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking e-mails between Laycock and various right-wing and religious liberty groups.
I know something about these requests, and at this point I think it worth remembering what Indiana Professor Eric Rasmussen said: we should be equally outraged at these threats to academic freedom when they come from the left or the right.
Allen Dickerson, Legal Director of the Center for Competitive Politics (with whom I’ve had countless but respectful disagreements over the years) writes at CCP’s blog:
In a similar vein, Mr. Adams takes issue with a listserv run by Professor Rick Hasen:
Hasen runs an online meeting hall for all the would-be speech totalitarians. They post, bluster, and kibitz about the latest news on their effort to erode the First Amendment and increase federal power. Whenever a free speech advocate seeks to contribute to the conversation at the blog, they are often deliberately given a cold shoulder and ignored, per plan. The ignored don’t understand that leftists aren’t interested in debate. Their pedigree requires the eradication of opposing ideas, not their incubation.
He goes on to suggest that, because this listserv is hosted by a public university (Prof. Hasen teaches at the University of California, Irvine), that it is appropriate to file “a freedom of information request demanding Hasen’s emails to the White House and other government officials including any on the topic of speech regulations.”
As a participant on that listserv—and I do not believe that Mr. Adams would consider me a “speech totalitarian”—I can say that while Prof. Hasen and I disagree on a great many things, I have never been given the cold shoulder or ignored. There have been exchanges both terse and tense, but that is to be expected in discussing this issue. This isn’t a field populated by folks with thin skins.
More importantly, a bedrock principle for many of us is that private speech should be left alone. Prof. Hasen is a private citizen. While leaving aside the merits of any particular state Public Records Act request (I am not a California lawyer), there is an unmistakable air of intimidation in requesting a private person’s emails, especially when that same request can be more properly addressed to any government officials involved.
I do want to clear up one misconception of Allen’s, created by Mr. Adams’ original post. Adams wrote: “Judicial Watch sent the University of California at Irvine a freedom of information request demanding Hasen’s emails to the White House and other government officials including any on the topic of speech regulations.” (my emphasis) Allen then writes that any public records requests should go to whatever government officials are out there. But that’s not all that Judicial Watch asked for. They asked for virtually all of my email for a two year period [corrected] except internal UCI email and email sent to students:
“…Judicial Watch, Inc. requests from the University of California access to and a copy of any and all record(s)… concerning or relating to the following:
1) All emails from Law Professor Rick Hasen from September 1, 2010 through November 6, 2012, to any party outside of the University of California, Irvine, sent on University of California, Irvine, servers from email@example.com. This request does not therefore include any administrative emails regarding the University of California, or any emails to students or the like.
2) All emails from third parties outside the University of California, Irvine, system sent to Law Professor Rick Hasen sent from September 1, 2010 through November 6, 2012, on University of California, lrvine, servers to firstname.lastname@example.org. This request does not therefore include any administrative emails regarding the University of California, or any emails from students or the like.
3) Moreover, this request does not seek any emails which are already public record by virtue of being part of a list serve run by Law Professor Rick Hasen and housed on University of California, Irvine, servers at http://department-lists.uci.edu/mailman/listinfo/lawelection. This request does not include email traffic which is part of this list serve and already has been posted publically though it also appears in Professor Hasens in or out box for his email mailbox email@example.com.”
So it is worse than Eric Rasmussen thought too.
“Judicial Watch sent the University of California at Irvine a freedom of information request demanding Hasen’s emails to the White House and other government officials including any on the topic of speech regulations. The University told Judicial Watch to pound sand, and still hasn’t provided anything.”
What will judicial watch think if a liberal group asks universities to hunt down all the political emails of its conservative professors? I’m one of those, so I feel threatened myself. And since when have the emails of a single employee with no authority to act for [the] university on a subject been subject to FOIA requests?
Charlotte Observer editorial: “What’s happening to UNC Chapel Hill law professor Gene Nichol should trouble all of us in North Carolina. A campaign appears afoot to silence his criticism of Republicans and their legislative policies that Nichol deems harmful to the state and its residents….In email records obtained by the (Raleigh) News & Observer, criticism by Republican supporters of GOP Gov. Pat McCrory – including university board members, alumni and others – spurred the university to request notice when Nichol writes opinion pieces. University officials also asked him to omit his title as director of the privately funded, university-based Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity when the issue does not directly involve poverty. Last October after he criticized the governor and legislature for election law changes that this editorial board has also lambasted as partisan and racially motivated, the school asked him to include an explicit disclaimer that “he doesn’t speak for UNC.”…It is understandable officials would make such requests, given the legislative rock and hard place the university finds itself in these days. Budget director Art Pope just last month chastised university officials for submitting a funding request that asks for what they needed rather than acceding to his directive for something much less. After his tongue-lashing, officials revised their request substantially downward.”
Art Pope? Now where have I heard that name before? Oh yeah.