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Critics challenge Kansas Board of Regents’ new social media policy

December 24, 2013

by Brad Cooper

Opposition is snowballing against a new policy aimed at how faculty and staff at Kansas universities use social media.

Two national education groups have condemned the policy, arguing that it threatens the First Amendment rights and academic freedoms enjoyed by faculty.

And faculty are increasingly voicing their opposition to the policy, most recently Monday when 40 distinguished professors at Kansas State University called for the policy to be repealed.

“I think this is going to have to be changed,” said Phil Nel, a K-State English professor who signed the letter sent to the Kansas Board of Regents.

“If it isn’t changed there will be no Regents’ university worth the name because you literally cannot have a university under those conditions.”

The Regents adopted the policy after a University of Kansas journalism professor used Twitter to wish violence against the families of National Rifle Association members following a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.

The policy gives a university’s top leader the power to suspend or fire any faculty member or staffer who improperly uses social media, including Facebook or Twitter.

The policy’s list of improper uses includes communications that incite violence; that disclose student information or research data; that are “contrary to the best interest of the university”; that impair “discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers”; or that have “a detrimental impact on close working relationships for which personal loyalty and confidence are necessary...

Schools: University of Kansas Cases: Kansas Board of Regents Approves Vague and Overbroad Social Media Policy University of Kansas: Anti-NRA Tweet Results in Professor’s Suspension