LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas reached a settlement agreement over the release of emails and other documents with a student group looking for ties between an economic research center and brothers Charles and David Koch, the university announced Thursday.
The president of Students for a Sustainable Future, Schuyler Kraus, filed an open records request last year seeking years of emails, correspondence and notes from Art Hall, a lecturer and executive director of the privately funded Center for Applied Economics in the University of Kansas School of Business.
Hall, who previously was chief economist for the public-sector group of Koch Industries Inc., sued the university to prevent the release of the information. He argued that releasing his emails would violate his right to academic freedom because the student group is politically motivated and wants to “silence” his speech. He has also said his emails aren’t subject to the Open Records Act because the center is privately funded.
The case had been set for trial in November. Under the agreement, the university and Hall released about a dozen pages of documents, including correspondence between Hall and the Koch foundations that discuss the KU Center for Applied Economics’ use of funds provided by those foundations. The documents released also included the center’s funding administration agreement with the Koch Foundation.
The settlement calls for Kraus to withdraw her open records request. She did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Thursday, but has previously that the issue is whether KU is allowing influential donors to use the university’s name and credibility to promote their ideas in the guise of academic research.
University spokesman Tim Caboni said the university “strongly supports the First Amendment rights of faculty and the freedom of faculty to pursue the independent and uninhibited exchange of ideas.”
“But at the same time, the university is a state agency, and the Kansas Open Records Act requires us to produce certain records and to act transparently. This is a difficult balancing act, as this case has demonstrated, and we are glad to have the matter resolved,” Caboni said.
Hall said the agreement shows respect for academic freedom.
“The agreement demonstrates it is possible to provide transparency in funding while respecting academic freedom,” Hall said in a prepared statement provided by the university.
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