Waterbury Republican-American: Don’t erode freedom of information

Connecticut legislators are once again seeking to curtail the state’s freedom-of-information law, ostensibly in service of “protecting” academics from the dangerous hoi polloi.
Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield, has resurrected last year’s proposal to shield taxpayer-funded academic work from public view. The bill would exempt from FOI law “records maintained or kept on file by or for the faculty or staff of a public institution of higher education arising out of teaching or research on medical, artistic, scientific, legal or other scholarly issues, including any such records of legal clinics or centers, but excluding any financial records of such institution.”
In a column for the Connecticut Mirror, Michele Jacklin, legislative co-chair of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, lambasted the proposal: “To be clear, the faculty members who would be covered by this legislation work on billion-dollar campuses paid for by the public, the research they perform is paid for with public monies, and their salaries are paid by the public. Yet the public be damned.”
In a responding column, Michael Bailey, executive director of UConn’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors union, asserted that FOI law is used to harass university faculty, and “other states already exempt from their FOI statutes faculty teaching or research records, including Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.” Other proponents of the bill have noted that published academic research is already publicly available.
For a number of reasons, we don’t think these anti-FOI arguments withstand scrutiny: