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Regents leaders remain committed to disciplinary aspects of social media policy

— Kansas Board of Regents leaders on Wednesday said they would not back down from the disciplinary aspects of the board’s social media policy for universities.

“I don’t agree this restricts expression,” said Regents Chairman Fred Logan.

Members of a work group assigned to review the social media policy, which allows university chief executive officers to fire employees for social media posts that conflict with the school’s best interests, said the policy has had a chilling effect on freedom of speech on campuses.

Kansas University professor, Charles Epp, co-chairman of the work group, said officials must be vigilant in protecting freedom of speech at colleges because professors and students are often involved in cutting-edge research and forms of expression that frequently generate controversy.

“You are touching the third rail of higher education here,” Epp said.

Logan disagreed. He said the social media policy has been misunderstood. For example, he said, he has heard comments that if a university employee criticized the head of a university they could be fired. He described that as “ludicrous” because of First Amendment protections.

Logan, regents Vice Chairman Kenny Wilk and regent Tim Emert were meeting as the Governance Committee of the regents Wednesday to review the work group’s proposal to shelve the social media policy in favor of an advisory policy on the proper uses of social media.

Work group Co-chairman Kevin Johnson, general counsel at Emporia State University, said the group’s proposal was more preventive than punitive by offering guidelines on the responsible use of social media.

But regents members criticized the work group’s proposal.

Regent Tim Emert said the work group was supposed to recommend “corrections” in the policy, not make a wholesale change.

“Some place this train got off the tracks,” Emert said. “If any professor gave an assignment and the student came back with something completely different, the grade would not be very good.”

But Logan recommended adding language from the work group’s recommendation that emphasized First Amendment protections and academic freedom.

Logan also wants included in the policy a 1940 statement by the American Association of University Professors that says college teachers “should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations.”

Max McCoy, a journalism professor at Emporia State University, said the changes proposed by Logan were “window dressing.”

But Epp and Johnson said they were encouraged by the proposed changes.

“We will have to see what the lawyers say this means in application. I’m heartened that they’ve included protections for academic freedom and an affirmation of First Amendment protections,” Epp said.

The governance committee will meet again, probably early next month, to formally adopt the revised policy and then that will be forwarded to the full Board of Regents. It may take a week or more to get the revised draft policy posted online for comment, regents officials said.

The regents formed the work group in January after faculty, staff and academic groups said the current policy was too broad and restrained free speech. The group, made up of faculty and staff from regents universities, approved its proposal earlier this month.

The regents passed the social media policy in December after an anti-NRA tweet by KU journalism professor David Guth sparked a national uproar and prompted some Kansas lawmakers to call for Guth to be fired.


Chris Crandall says...

This is not good news.

Posted 16 April 2014, 1:39 p.m. Suggest removal

Sam Crow says...

This is great news.

Posted 16 April 2014, 4:53 p.m. Suggest removal

Julius Nolan says...

See the Regents got the Koch memo and will follow their orders.

Posted 16 April 2014, 6:40 p.m. Suggest removal

Larry Sturm says...

Why did they even have a committee even look at it if they were not going to even consider any changes, I think that the committee deserves an apology from the regents.

Posted 16 April 2014, 6:50 p.m. Suggest removal

David Bishop says...

When all is said and done, the regents are nothing more than politicians who lack the backbone to stand up to Tea Party legislators and the governor for fear of losing more funding. The fact is that more faculty and more students need to be able to speak and act freely about the travesty that post secondary education is becoming in Kansas under the bootheel of a legislature and governor who fear an educated populace.

Posted 16 April 2014, 7:54 p.m. Suggest removal

Amy Varoli Elliott says...

This is why it seems at least once a week there is an article in the paper stating that this professor/dean/top offical is leaving the University for a job elsewhere. The legislator is making the State very undesirable.

Posted 17 April 2014, 9:46 a.m. Suggest removal

Sam Crow says...

Let them leave. There are many other professors to replace them.

Posted 17 April 2014, 7:34 p.m. Suggest removal

Renee Patrick says...

The ones leaving are the really great ones. Are the ones coming in as good?

Posted 18 April 2014, 8:22 a.m. Suggest removal

Sam Crow says...

Maybe even better.

Posted 20 April 2014, 12:10 p.m. Suggest removal

Richard Heckler says...

Logan was appointed by Brownback i 2011…….. dictators Inc. In a democracy there appears to be 24/7 censorship developing. Go away I say.

Posted 18 April 2014, 1:51 a.m. Suggest removal

Leslie Swearingen says...

You know you can set privacy controls on both Twitter and Facebook to allow who you decide can and cannot see what you write. I suspect that in the case of the grotesquely inflammatory comment that Professor Guth wrote that a friend that he tweeted it to "outed" him.

Isn't what a Professor tweets or posts on Facebook the same thing that they would say in class? Isn't it far more interesting to talk with someone who has a different opinion than you do? Apart from the fact that you just might learn something, do you really want to hear your voice echoed back?

Kind of on the same subject I put comments in the Huffington Post and they are now requiring posters to use their real name and to verify it with Facebook. Could I print out my Facebook home page that has my picture on it and use it as a valid photo ID?

Posted 18 April 2014, 11:43 a.m. Suggest removal

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