Professor Art Hall has taken the University of Kansas to court in an effort to prevent the public release of his emails which date back nearly 10 years.
The inquiry into Hall’s communications started back in August, when University of Kansas student Schuyler Kraus noticed Hall had previously been connected with the Koch brothers. Hall held the position of chief economist from 1997-2004 for the corporation’s public sector.
Hall, who is now the director of the center for economics at the University of Kansas, received a seed grant of $500,000 from the “Fred and Mary Koch foundation.” This practice is not uncommon in higher education, but has lead to criticism from some students.
The main issue being raised is not the donation itself, but rather the issue of transparency at a public university.
The Daily Caller spoke with professor Hall in a phone interview, and he spoke about why he believes he is being singled out.
“It is absolutely clear from the paper trail, that these students object to a specific piece of legislation I supported, SB433,” Hall said.
SB433 was a proposed bill that would have repealed a Kansas law requiring a set number of energy projects in the state to use renewable energy, mainly wind power. Hall was strongly in favor of repeal.
Hall’s attorney, Curtis Tideman, also spoke to TheDC, and agreed that his client is being targeted for his political ideology.
“It’s clearly stated that Kraus is making this request in light of Dr. Hall’s testimony regarding SB433,” Tideman said. “In her official request, she clearly states that as her main reason. She is also a known environmentalist.”
Tideman continued, “I have no issue with her being an active environmentalist. However, an issue arises when she begins seeking 10 years worth of emails, because professor Hall said something she didn’t like.”
Tideman then speculated that Kraus was making the open records request simply to discredit Hall.
“I suspect what she is really trying to do is find something in his emails that can be used to discredit or smear him in some way,” Tideman explained. “Or she’s trying to make him less likely to testify on issues like this in the future.”
Despite Kraus claiming her motives are not political, her social media account on twitter lists several politically charged tweets which are squarely at odds with Hall’s political leanings.
— Schuyler Kraus (@schuylerronan) April 15, 2013
— Sierra Club (@sierraclub) January 29, 2014
Whewwwwww man, Tea Party movement… repulsive.: http://wp.me/pZK4j-5o
— Schuyler Kraus (@schuylerronan) November 16, 2010
TheDC reached out to Kraus for comment, but received several non-committal emails in return. She said she believes TheDC is controlled by the Charles Koch Foundation, and she would not speak to us unless we publicized her false accusation as fact.
TheDC did manage, however, to obtain a phone interview with her attorney, David Brown.
When Brown was asked what inspired the records request, he replied, “I didn’t make the request. My client did.” He refused to say whether he believes the Koch brothers are a danger to education.
Finally, when asked if he thought his client was politically motivated, and if the email request was extreme, he deferred to Kraus:
“I think she speaks for herself, and she says she is not politically motivated, and I trust my client.”
Among the many groups involved in the case are the The American Association of University Professors. In its mission statement, it says that its goal is to “advance academic freedom.”
However, it claims that it does not recognize Hall as a professor, and sees him as more of an administrator.
TheDC spoke to the Kansas AAUP conference president Ron Barrett about his involvement in the case:
While Kraus was seeking $1,800 to file a Kansas Open Records Act request, she approached Barrett, and he wrote her a check for $1,000 to assist with the email request.
“We took up a collection, and said: do the right thing, young people,” Barrett said.
Barrett stressed that Hall “is not a professor,” and that if he was a professor, the AAUP would be backing him up in this case. “He is not a member of any academic department at the school,” Barrett said. “And his job description does not include anything about teaching.”
Hall rebutted these claims, saying, “I was hired as a director of a research center. However, if you look at the campus, they have directors that also serve as professors. But I was hired to do economic research, and that evolved into me becoming a lecturer. What I spend most of my work day doing is working or teaching.”
Hall added that “It’s fair to say that the business school considers me a member of the faculty.”
The University of Kansas business school dean, Neeli Bendapudi, issued a statement about the case:
“With respect to the classroom experience, Art Hall is a lecturer who was hired in 2004. We ask of him what we ask of every faculty member in our school: to have strong credentials, to be effective in the classroom, and to be respectful of different points of view. He does that admirably as evidenced in his receiving the 2014 MBA Association Educator of the Year award, which is voted on by students. In regards to research, as is the case with any employee, when Art presents his viewpoints in different forums, he is required to qualify them as his own and not those of the School of Business or KU.”
She added that “I am proud of the faculty, staff, and students at the KU school of business and I am honored to lead this impressive group.”