University Of Kansas New Social Media Policy Draws Criticism

by , Dec 23, 2013, 5:09 PM
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The University of Kansas Regents are getting low marks from academics for the system's new social media policy, which allows school officials to fire professors -- including ones with tenure -- for making “inappropriate” comments on social media services.

The new code -- developed without faculty input -- allows a school's top official to fire anyone who makes “improper use of social media.” The policy defines that concept so broadly that it includes any comment that “impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers.”

The American Association of University Professors forcefully condemned the regents' move, calling the policy “a gross violation of the fundamental principles of academic freedom that have been a cornerstone of American higher education for nearly a century.”

The AAUP adds: “Not only faculty, but students and the general public benefit from the free exchange of information and ideas that are at the heart of the academic enterprise, whether conducted orally, in print, or electronically.”

The regents' social-media code marks the latest reaction to an inflammatory tweet by David Guth, a tenured journalism professor who took to social media to condemn the National Rifle Association after the shooting at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard.

"The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you," he posted. That tweet soon became the focus of controversy in the state, where Republican lawmakers called for Guth's dismissal.

Guth initially said he stood by the tweet, but eventually apologized for the post, which he said was misinterpreted. “Some interpreted my tweet differently than it was intended," Guth reportedly said in a statement. "I don't want anyone's children hurt. The fact my words were misconstrued is my fault."

Guth is still with the school, but isn't teaching any classes this semester and is planning to take a leave of absence in the first half of next year.

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