by Bob Kellogg
After a flood of criticism from free-speech advocates, the Kansas Board of Regents has decided to review a new and very unpopular policy restricting social media comments.
The controversial policy (Section C.6.b), which was adopted by the regents in mid-December, addresses the issue of “improper use of social media” by university employees and administration. Since then, however, the policy has attracted a steady stream of criticism from advocates of academic freedom – one categorizing it as “the hair-trigger use of punitive authority whenever the agency’s public image is imperiled.” In response to such criticism, the board announced last week they will review the policy.
OneNewsNow contacted Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), who says the regents have decided, with this new policy, that faculty members can be punished or fired if they post comments on social media sites that are supposedly not in the best interests of their universities.
“The best interests of the university may not be the best interests of the students or faculty members or a Kansas taxpayer,” Shibley explains. “So if you were to come out and say … the University of Kansas is wasting money, that probably wouldn’t be in the best interests of the University – but it certainly would be in the best interests of taxpayers.”
The board has created a “workgroup” that has until April to make recommendations. But FIRE’s executive vice president sees a problem with that group.
“All the people that they’ve called on to review it so far are actually their own employees,” notes Shibley. “So it begs the question of whether or not they’re going to feel comfortable really giving this policy the most critical possible review, if that’s in fact what they decide is warranted.”
The ACLU of Kansas and the National Coalition Against Censorship, along with FIRE, are urging the board to simply abandon the policy.