Academic Freedom from Information

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Recently I tried to discover information about a former colleague, now a full professor at a state university, who had been accused of plagiarism a decade ago. I heard that the case had been “settled” and forgotten – until he was again accused of plagiarism. Attempting to get more information about the terms of settlement, let alone details about the plagiarism (which should, after all, be based upon verifiable evidence), I discovered that nothing was available in print about the first case. As for the second case, the only information available came from an unsympathetic departmental colleague who heard that the case went to some university committee a few years ago, and nothing had been heard since.

Thinking it odd that such information should remain unavailable at a “public” university, I asked another friend, a former professor, to explain this peculiarity. She reminded me that universities, even public universities, have secured exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act. Try to find out about student suicides, she challenged me.

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