University of Kansas

Location: Lawrence, Kansas
Website: http://www.ku.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 10th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Kansas has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

Red Light Policies

  • Housing Handbook: Policies and Procedures- Harassment, General

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: December 21, 2015

    Harassing behavior or materials regardless of method or medium of harassment is prohibited. This includes any comment, action, or type of behavior that is threatening, insulting, intimidating, demeaning or discriminatory or disrupts the community environment or limits a resident’s or their guest’s ability to participate in their residential community and on campus. This includes acts of coercion, stalking, bullying, pranks and prank phone calls, vandalism or defacement of personal property, and attempts to embarrass or humiliate.

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  • Institutional Opportunity & Access: Examples of Sexual Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: December 21, 2015

    Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of situations. These are examples of sexual harassment, not intended to be all inclusive:

    • Unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive words on clothing, and unwelcome comments and repartee.
    • Touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker’s back, grabbing an employee around the waist, or interfering with an employee’s ability to move.
    • Repeated requests for dates that are turned down or unwanted flirting.
    • Transmitting or posting emails or pictures of a sexual or other harassment-related nature.
    • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or posters.
    • Playing sexually suggestive music.
    • Sharing sexually inappropriate images or videos, such as pornography, with co-workers.
    • Sending suggestive letters, notes, or e-mails.
    • Displaying inappropriate sexual images or posters in the workplace.
    • Telling lewd jokes, or sharing sexual anecdotes.
    • Making inappropriate sexual gestures.
    • Staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner, or whistling.
    • Making sexual comments about appearance, clothing, or body parts.
    • Inappropriate touching, including pinching, patting, rubbing, or purposefully brushing up against another person.
    • Asking sexual questions, such as questions about someone’s sexual history or their sexual orientation.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Institutional Opportunity & Access Procedure: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: December 21, 2015

    “Sexual Harassment” means behavior, including physical contact, advances, and comments in person, through an intermediary, and/or via phone, text message, email, social media, or other electronic medium, that is unwelcome; based on sex or gender stereotypes; and is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with a person’s academic performance, employment or equal opportunity to participate in or benefit from University programs or activities or by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or educational environment. Sexual Harassment may include but is not limited to:

    (1) unwelcome efforts to develop a romantic or sexual relationship;

    (2) unwelcome commentary about an individual’s body or sexual activities;

    (3) threatening to engage in the commission of an unwelcome sexual act with another person;

    (4) stalking or cyberstalking;

    (5) engaging in indecent exposure; voyeurism, or other invasion of personal privacy;

    (6) unwelcome physical touching or closeness;

    (7) unwelcome jokes or teasing of a sexual nature or based upon gender or sex stereotypes; and

    (8) sexual violence, as defined below.

    Title IX and University Policy prohibit gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

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  • Housing Handbook: Policies and Procedures- Harassment, Electronic

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: December 21, 2015

    Use of any electronic media as a means for harassment is strictly prohibited. Harassing behavior includes sending text, picture, audio, video or executable electronic code (virus’s, etc.) over electronic forums, message boards, social media sites and services, instant messaging or chat services, email, or other internet or intranet service, and websites. This includes repeated unwanted contact or any stalking or bullying behaviors on any of the aforementioned media.

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  • Housing Handbook: Policies and Procedures- Dissemination of Information

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: December 21, 2015

    Posting materials is prohibited without approval by the complex director or KU Student Housing.

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  • Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: Offenses Against Persons

    Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies
    Last updated: December 21, 2015

    An offense against a person is committed when a student: … Engages in bullying and cyberbullying defined as repeated and/or severe aggressive behaviors that intimidate or harm or control another person physically or emotionally, and are not protected by freedom of expression.

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Green Light Policies
  • Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: Bill of Rights

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: December 21, 2015

    Free inquiry, expression, and assembly are guaranteed to all students.

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  • Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: Freedom of Protest

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: December 21, 2015

    The right of orderly and peaceful protest within the University community must be preserved. The University retains the right to assure the safety of individuals, the protection of property, and the continuity of the educational process including the maintenance of entrance to and egress from all University buildings and offices, conduct of regular class meetings and other University functions.

    Peaceful picketing and other orderly demonstrations are permitted in public areas of University buildings, including corridors, outside auditoriums and other places set aside for public meetings

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  • Kansas State Says it’s Not Legally Required to Police Off-Campus Conduct, Feds Disagree

    July 13, 2016

    By Matt Lamb at The College Fix Kansas State University has provoked the wrath of the federal government by refusing to police the behavior of students when they leave campus… Read more here.

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  • Studies in the First Amendment, Playing Out on Campus

    June 22, 2016

    By Abby Ellin at The New York Times Ask Andrea M. Quenette if she thinks that colleges and universities are doing a good job refereeing the debate over free speech, and she’ll respond with an emphatic ‘no.’… Read more here.

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  • KU Prof Loses job Despite Being Cleared by Investigation

    May 26, 2016

    By Anthony Gockowski at Campus Reform A professor at the University of Kansas has lost her job after allegedly inappropriately using a racial slur in class, despite a lengthy investigation that cleared her of all charges… Read more here.  

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  • Professor Cleared and Still out of a Job

    May 18, 2016

    By Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed Andrea Quenette, the University of Kansas professor of communication who used a racial slur during an ill-received class discussion about race, says she was not reappointed to her tenure-track position… Read more here.

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  • White Professor Denied Tenure After she Quotes N-Word in Class Discussion on Race

    May 18, 2016

    By College Fix Staff at The College Fix Never, ever, ever, ever say the N-word in any class discussion – no matter the context, even if you are quoting somebody else – if you are white… Read more here.

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  • KU University Senate Proposes a Free Speech Committee After a Tumultuous Year on the Hill

    May 12, 2016

    By Amina Smith at Wow! 6 News As the academic year at KU winds down, faculty leaders are hard at work attacking some of the more serious issues the university faces… Read more here.

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  • ‘The Chalkening’ of Trump: Terror Grows on Campuses

    April 18, 2016

    By Bob Unruh at World Net Daily On university campuses, where many enthusiastic students vote for the first time, political candidates’ slogans typically appear on signs, bumper stickers, T-shirts, placards, dorm-room walls and even in chalk on sidewalks… Read more here.

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  • The Sissification of Academia

    April 6, 2016

    By Bob Barr at Townhall For decades, liberals have forewarned the destruction by conservatives of their Ivory Towers of academia. They whine that conservatives are out to “starve” educational institutions by cutting their bloated, taxpayer-funded budgets; they blame conservative opposition to their precious Common Core scheme as “paranoia,” and they defend teacher unions to the death… Read more here.

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  • Alaska had Doubts Before Testing Season Began

    April 5, 2016

    By Caitlin Emma at Politico ALASKA HAD DOUBTS BEFORE TESTING SEASON BEGAN: The Alaska Department of Education was concerned about this year’s computer-based statewide student assessments even before last week’s Internet connectivity problems, Interim Commissioner Susan McCauley told Morning Education. “We had very shaky confidence going into this assessment, but from an administrative standpoint, assumed it would be fine,” McCauley said. Alaska had already decided in February that it would begin the search for a new testing vendor for next year and beyond, and this experience made clear their need for an institution that can provide “high-quality, useful data for […]

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  • Pro-Trump Chalk Messages Cause Conflicts on College Campuses

    April 1, 2016

    By Katie Rogers at The New York Times Students at several college campuses are clashing with their administrations and debating the limits of free speech after finding chalk messages voicing support for Donald J. Trump scrawled on campus property… Read more here.

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  • Professor Cleared to Teach After Furor Over Race

    March 21, 2016

    By Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed The University of Kansas on Friday informed Andrea M. Quenette, assistant professor of communication studies, that she has been cleared of wrongdoing in an investigation overcomments she made about race in a graduate course in November. Quenette had been suspended while the investigation was going on — and the incident and its aftermath have been of concern to many advocates for academic freedom. Read more here.

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  • College Professor Uses N-Word to Make a Point About Her ‘White Privilege’ — Guess How Some of Her PC Students Responded

    March 4, 2016

    By Kathryn Blackhurst at The Blaze Dr. Andrea Quenette, an assistant communications professor at the University of Kansas, has been taken off a semester of teaching following a months-long investigation conducted by the university into her alleged offenses against political correctness and racial sensitivity. Read more here.

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  • PC Hysteria Claims Another Professor

    March 3, 2016

    By Robby Soave at The Daily Beast The movement to purge all offensive speech from American college campuses has claimed another scalp. Andrea Quenette, an assistant communications professor, was chased out of her own classroom—not because she was a bad teacher, but because her students said she wasn’t agreeing with them quickly enough. Read more here.

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  • Free speech Group Urges KU to Exonerate Professor Who Used N-word in Class

    February 19, 2016

    By Sara Shepherd at The Mirror LAWRENCE — A national free speech group issued a strongly worded message to Kansas University this week about the case of a professor under investigation for discrimination after using the N-word in class. Read more here.

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  • The Phony Debate About Political Correctness

    January 14, 2016

    By Erica Hellerstein and Judd Legum at Think Progress In 1991, New York Magazine published an influential cover story, titled “Are You Politically Correct?” The headline was splashed across the glossy’s front page in bold red and white letters, followed by a list of supposed “politically correct” questions: … Read more here.

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  • Student Activism, Race & Free Speech

    November 18, 2015

    By Aaron Henkin, Maureen Harvie and Connor Graham at WYPR.org The University of Missouri, Yale University, University of South Carolina, Occidental College, University of Kansas, Claremont McKenna College. The list goes on. College students across the country are leading protests and demonstrations to call attention to the issue of racial tolerance, diversity, and in some cases, the resignation of professors and high-ranking administrators. In this hour of Midday we’ll view this topic through national and local lenses, and hear the points of view of academic reporters, students, a college administrator and a free speech advocate. Our guests: Scott Jaschik,editor and one […]

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  • Editorial: College Speech Crackdowns

    October 8, 2015

    By Las Vegas Review at Las Vegas Review-Journal American universities are notoriously hostile to free speech — even student speech that occurs off campus. A recent court ruling in Kansas marked an important victory for student rights, but the decision doesn’t go far enough to rein in unconstitutional policies that infringe on core student freedoms. Last month, the Kansas Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court ruling that overturned the expulsion of University of Kansas student Navid Yeasin for off-campus conduct. Mr. Yeasin was a cad in dealing with an ex-girlfriend, posting vile tweets and being a jerk during an off-campus […]

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  • Court Orders Univ. of Kansas to Reinstate Expelled Student

    September 30, 2015

    By CS Staff at Campus Safety Magazine An appeals court in Kansas has ordered the University of Kansas to reinstate a student who was expelled for what the court says was “reprehensible, demeaning, and criminal behavior.” The school expelled Navid Yeasin for posting sexually demeaning posts about a woman despite being repeatedly warned to stop. The school claims the posts violated the woman’s rights under Title IX. KU also says he violated both a Johnson County protection order and a school order banning him from contacting her. The court, however, says, however, that KU can’t expel Yeasin because the behavior […]

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  • Court Says University of Kansas Can’t Expel Student Over Off-campus Tweets

    September 25, 2015

    By Associated Press at KSHB.com TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – The University of Kansas must reinstate a student it expelled for sending offensive tweets about a former girlfriend while he was not on campus, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled Friday. Navid Yeasin, a senior, was expelled in 2013 after posting the tweets, which the university said violated an order it had issued prohibiting him from having any contact, including electronic or written communication, with the woman. Court documents called the couple’s relationship “tumultuous and at times toxic,” and the woman alleged Yeasin had held her in a car against her […]

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  • Kansas Court of Appeals Orders KU to Readmit Expelled Student Who Committed ‘Reprehensible’ Acts

    September 25, 2015

    By Rick Dean at The Topeka Capital-Journal Court: Navid Yeasin’s ‘demeaning’ actions occurred off campus A Kansas Court of Appeals panel has upheld a Douglas County District Court decision ordering the University of Kansas to readmit a student expelled for actions the appeals court called “reprehensible, demeaning, and criminal behavior” involving a former girlfriend. The appeals panel said the district court was correct in ruling that KU had no legal right to expel Navid Yeasin because his initial conflict with the woman and a subsequent series of “puerile and sexually harassing tweets” and posts to social media occurred off campus […]

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  • KU Can’t Expel Student Over Tweets, Kansas Court of Appeals Rules

    September 25, 2015

    By Peter Hancock at Lawrence Journal-World TOPEKA — The Kansas Court of Appeals ruled Friday that Kansas University cannot expel a student for misconduct that occurs off campus, and it ordered Navid Yeasin to be reinstated as a student. But the three-judge panel declined to answer one of the larger questions in the case: whether tweets and other forms of social media communication are forms of free speech protected by the U.S. and state constitutions. Instead, the three-judge panel based its ruling on KU’s own Student Code, which generally applies only to conduct that occurs on campus or at university-sponsored […]

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  • Federal Rules Run Afoul of First Amendment

    September 2, 2015

    By George Leef at The John William Pope Center They say “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” but that doesn’t really describe the whole mechanism. The reason that good intentions can cause so many problems is because they lead to actions with unintended consequences. One stark example is when federal politicians passed the Higher Education Act, they thought they were only going to help good students who couldn’t otherwise afford college to go. Certainly, they didn’t mean to make college far more expensive, to undermine academic standards, or to give bureaucrats leverage to dictate to colleges and […]

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  • Teacher talk: Professors’ fight to speak openly often isn’t easy

    August 12, 2015

    By Mariana Viera at Student Press Law Center Having accepted a tenured professorship at the University of Illinois, Steven Salaita resigned from his job at Virginia Tech and was ready to go to the public institution’s Urbana-Champaign campus — until university officials rescinded their offer about three weeks before classes started. A month before his termination, Salaita, a Palestinian-American, posted a series of impassioned and controversial tweets criticizing Israel’s president and the country’s actions in Gaza. “#Israel has even bombed a few cemeteries. You know, just to make sure the “terrorists” are really dead. #Gaza #GazaUnderAttack,” Salaita said in one […]

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  • College Student Expelled Because He Called His Ex ‘Pscyho’ On Twitter

    July 16, 2015

    By Maria Santos at Red Alert Politics Most of us have probably said some things about our exes that we regret. But most of us haven’t been charged with “harassment”–unlike former University of Kansas student Navid Yeasin, who was expelled from school for tweeting that his ex was a “psycho b—h.” It seems Yeasmin and his one-time girlfriend had had a rocky relationship, and the school issued him a no-contact order. Following that order, he obliquely tweeted about her, referencing a “psycho b—c” and #psycho, but never explicitly named her. He was off-campus at the time, and the ex was blocked […]

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  • Student Expelled For Calling His Ex-Girlfriend ‘Psycho’ On Twitter

    July 15, 2015

    By Katherine Timpf at National Review Apparently it was a violation of Title IX. A student at the University of Kansas was expelled because he called his ex-girlfriend a “psycho b[****]” on Twitter — despite the fact that he didn’t use her name in the post. The case is currently before the Kansas Court of Appeals. According to the school’s lawyers, Navid Yeasin’s expulsion was justified because by calling his ex names — even though he was doing it off campus and during the summer — he had created a “hostile environment” for her on campus, which made his actions […]

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  • Free-Speech Case Finds KU And K-State On Opposite Sides

    July 11, 2015

    By Mara Rose Williams at Kansas City Star Kansas’ two biggest universities find themselves in opposite camps in a possibly pivotal case that pits the limits of free speech against educators’ efforts to protect students from sexual harassment. It holds national implications and tests how far a school can, or must, go in order to police off-campus conduct and the virtual world of social media. The case, set to play out Tuesday in oral arguments before the state Court of Appeals in Topeka, could determine whether colleges end up in the business of policing students’ Twitter accounts and the like. […]

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  • KU Faces Free Speech Challenge In Ongoing Lawsuit

    July 4, 2015

    By Cella Liopis-Jepsen at The Topeka Capital-Journal A lawsuit against The University of Kansas brought by a student expelled in connection with the alleged harassment of his ex-girlfriend is drawing attention from civil liberties groups and Kansas State University, who have submitted briefs to the court questioning KU’s arguments. Navid Yeasin turned to the courts last year after KU kicked him out mid-semester in the fall of 2013 and banned him from KU property. The university had warned him against harassing a fellow student, including making references to her on social media. KU’s warnings came after a series of incidents […]

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  • Two Kansas Universities Are in A Legal Dispute Over Supervising Student Speech Over Campus

    June 26, 2015

    By David Lim at The Huffintgton Post Kansas State University and the University of Kansas are butting heads over how heavily universities can and should supervise student speech off campus under the guidelines set by Title IX to govern sexual harassment. In an unusual legal alignment, the two sister universities find themselves on opposite sides of a former KU student’s First Amendment case that is working its way through the state appeals courts. KSU filed an amicus curiae brief on May 22, stating that universities do not have a responsibility to monitor off-campus sexual discrimination, unless the university maintains control […]

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  • KSU To KU: Don’t Be Stupid And Pretend Title IX Requires Colleges To Police Off-Campus Conduct

    June 23, 2015

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix The University of Kansas isn’t getting any love from its rival, in a legal fight that tests whether colleges must police the off-campus conduct of their students under Title IX anti-harassment policies. As The College Fix previously reported, KU is defending the propriety of its expulsion of a student whose alleged harassment of his ex-girlfriend took place over the summer, off campus. The student also called his ex a “psycho bitch” on Twitter, though he blocked her from his feed. KU pointed to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) “Dear Colleague” letter from 2011 […]

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  • Universities Are Using Title IX To Suppress Free Speech, Student Rights Groups Tell Court

    June 15, 2015

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix Students and faculty punished for their social media use keep showing up in litigation against universities. The latest case, involving a University of Kansas student who was expelled for calling his unnamed ex-girlfriend a “psycho bitch” on Twitter, has drawn a joint brief from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and Student Press Law Center. FIRE says in a blog post that there wasn’t even a hint of threat against the ex, to say nothing of a punishable “true threat”: The tweets never mentioned his ex’s name and were not sent to her; she was, in […]

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  • Too Many Things Qualify As Rape Under U. Of Kansas Policies, Task Force Says

    May 7, 2015

    By Matt Lamb at The College Fix Students at the University of Kansas may soon be able to play “sexually suggestive music” without running afoul of the school’s harassment code. The Sexual Assault Task Force, convened last fall by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, released 27 recommendations Friday for revising policies around sexual violence, included the “suggestive” tweak. While the report suggests clarifying and revising some definitions related to sexual violence – especially those that seem prudish by modern standards – it still leaves many broad definitions untouched. Under “Recommendations for Policy and Process Improvement,” the task force recommends clarifying the definition […]

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  • Scrutiny of Scholar’s Emails

    January 14, 2015

    By Kaitlin Mulhere at Inside Higher Ed A tug of war is brewing at the University of Kansas. On one side the rope are privacy protections in the name of academic freedom. On the other, a pull for public’s right to know. Somewhere in the center hovers the challenge of balancing competing interests of transparency and scholars’ privacy. A Kansas student group says it wants to investigate the relationship between a university lecturer and Charles and David Koch, who fund the employee’s work. The group suspects Art Hall, the director of the university’s Center for Applied Economics, of being a “stealth lobbyist” for the billionaire […]

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  • Judge Halts Politically Motivated FOIA Request Against Conservative Professor

    December 12, 2014

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix The executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas won’t be subject to further requests for his email correspondence by a student group critical of his work – at least for a while. A county judge issued a temporary restraining order against the university from releasing further email correspondence by Art Hall after the professor filed a lawsuit to block its release, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said. The group Students for a Sustainable Future wants information on “Hall’s relationship to Charles and David Koch, who are substantial […]

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  • Kansas Regents Stick with Social Media Policy

    April 18, 2014

    By Andra Bryan Stefanoni at The Joplin Globe After directing a committee to study a controversial social media policy and make recommended changes, the Kansas Board of Regents appears to not be changing the policy at all. It’s left some in academia baffled by why it appointed the work group in the first place. The policy, approved by the regents last December in response to a Twitter post critical of the National Rifle Association by a University of Kansas journalism professor after the fatal shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington, says a university chief executive officer can discipline employees, […]

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  • A new argument for hate-speech laws? Um … no

    February 4, 2014

    by Jonathan Rauch at The Washington Post You know, it’s actually kind of refreshing to read a good old-fashioned listener’s-veto critique of the First Amendment. Like sleeve garters, this is not something we see much of anymore. In a recent Daily Beast article, Thane Rosenbaum of Fordham Law School points out that hate speech and the like can cause serious pain and suffering. From there he jumps to the conclusion that such speech should be restricted. “Free speech should not stand in the way of common decency.” Hmm. That’s a big jump, from harm to restriction. Of course homophobic and anti-Semitic expressions hurt […]

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  • A New Year for Student Rights

    January 9, 2014

    by Joseph Cohn at Real Clear Policy

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  • Controversial ‘social media’ policy in KS to be revisited

    January 7, 2014

    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 […]

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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. […]

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  • Why States Need Social Media Policies

    October 29, 2013

    by Melissa Maynard Soon after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence posted a statement on Facebook expressing disappointment in the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, a long string of comments affirming his support for “traditional marriage” appeared. What was missing: Comments from people who disagreed with his position, which were promptly being deleted. “His staff tried to make it look like he was living in an echo chamber and everyone in Indiana agreed with him,” said Andrew Markle, who, like the governor, is a Republican. Markle launched a website and Facebook account to document what he dubbed “Pencership” – i.e., Pence’s censorship. At first, the […]

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  • KU case shows how backlash from professors’ remarks can inflame politicians

    September 29, 2013

    by Brad Cooper One professor compared terror victims to Nazis. Another suggested the feds toppled the twin towers. A third accused Republicans of raping the country. And the most recent eyebrow-raiser from an ivory tower: The children of gun rights advocates deserve to be taken out in the next mass shooting. The same colleges and universities whose scholars grab unfriendly headlines must look for money from legislatures that often find their views not just provocative, but offensive. That’s exacerbated by campuses perceived to lean left that must seek appropriations from state legislatures that increasingly tilt to the right. Consider the […]

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  • Why the University of Kansas Was Wrong to Suspend Tweeting Professor

    September 25, 2013

    After the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shootings last week, Professor David Guth of the University of Kansas (KU) sparked national controversy by tweeting the following: "#NavyYardShooting 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."Predictably, a firestorm of criticism followed. In addition to being lambasted online and in the press, Guth says he has received threats, and state legislators have even called for his firing.As First Amendment Center President Ken Paulson has explained, Guth’s speech is protected by the First Amendment, offensive though many may find […]

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  • Protected tweet?

    September 23, 2013

    by Colleen Flaherty Faculty advocates and free speech experts criticized the University of Kansas Friday after it put a tenured journalism professor on indefinite leave for a controversial tweet he posted in the aftermath of the recent Washington Navy Yard shooting. David W. Guth wrote: “#NavyYardShooting 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.” No one denied that the associate professor’s remark was in poor taste. Some experts also said Guth’s comment warranted investigation and condemnation by the the university. But his near-immediate suspension may have violated […]

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  • Kansas Professor’s Suspension Over NRA Tweet Draws Rebuke

    September 23, 2013

    by Jacob Gershman The University of Kansas is coming under fire from a free-speech watchdog group for suspending a journalism professor over his controversial tweets about the National Rifle Association. David Guth, an associate professor of journalism, was put on indefinite administrative leave on Friday for implying on Twitter that he wished violent harm upon the families of the NRA. Hours after last week’s Washington Navy Yard rampage, the professor reportedly tweeted: “#NavyYardShooting 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.” A spokesman for the NRA called Mr. […]

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  • KU case shows how backlash from professors’ remarks can inflame politicians

    September 19, 2013

    by Brad Cooper One professor compared terror victims to Nazis. Another suggested the feds toppled the twin towers. A third accused Republicans of raping the country. And the most recent eyebrow-raiser from an ivory tower: The children of gun rights advocates deserve to be taken out in the next mass shooting. The same colleges and universities whose scholars grab unfriendly headlines must look for money from legislatures that often find their views not just provocative, but offensive. That’s exacerbated by campuses perceived to lean left that must seek appropriations from state legislatures that increasingly tilt to the right. Consider the […]

    » Read More
  • University of Kansas Settles First Amendment Lawsuit from Student Newspaper

    July 14, 2016

    Student newspapers at our nation’s colleges and universities often walk a precarious tightrope. They are tasked with objectively reporting on campus happenings—including issues involving students, faculty, and administrators—when those very same people may approve funding allocation for the newspaper. Unfortunately, this often leads to retaliation against student newspapers by administrators and student governments who feel slighted by their work or simply disagree with what the paper writes. But First Amendment protection for student press at public colleges and universities is well-established, and administrators ought to be aware that they cannot get away with retaliation—neither in their own right, nor allowing […]

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  • Victory: University of Kansas Professor Reinstated After Four-Month Investigation Into Classroom Speech

    March 21, 2016

    LAWRENCE, Kan., March 21, 2016—A University of Kansas communications professor was cleared of any wrongdoing late Friday after a four-month investigation into comments she made during a classroom discussion on race. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to KU last month, urging the university to recognize that the professor’s comments are protected by the First Amendment and that any punishment would violate her rights. “I am tremendously relieved to have this process complete as the last four months have been a terribly emotionally distressing time for me and my family,” said assistant professor of communications studies Andrea […]

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  • What’s at Stake in KU’s Investigation of Professor’s In-Class Comments? Only Academic Freedom as Faculty Know It

    February 17, 2016

    In the midst of the surge in student protests across the country last fall, Torch readers may have caught wind of the case of University of Kansas (KU) communications professor Andrea Quenette, who last November found herself caught in a whirlwind of controversy following the negative reaction of students enrolled in her graduate seminar to her facilitation of an in-class discussion on race. “Negative reaction” doesn’t begin to cover it. The students accused Quenette of racial harassment and signed a now widely-seen open letter demanding that KU fire Quenette—effectively asking the university to police in-class speech by faculty to a […]

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  • Student Newspaper’s First Amendment Lawsuit Against University of Kansas Administrators Is Important Reminder about Need to Check Student Government Power

    February 10, 2016

    On February 5, the University Daily Kansan filed a lawsuit against two administrators of the University of Kansas (KU), alleging that the administrators failed to intervene when the student government slashed funding to the Kansan over an editorial criticizing the results of a student government election. The Kansan story begins in April 2014, when a slate of candidates for student government positions were declared ineligible the night before the election, resulting in two students who received a minority of votes—Morgan Said and Miranda Wagner—being elected to office. In response, the Kansan published an editorial by attorney and professor Mark Johnson […]

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  • Students, Admins Cite ‘Safe Spaces’ in Seeking Limits to Media Coverage

    November 23, 2015

    One of many noteworthy aspects of the recent protests over racial inequality on dozens of America’s college campuses has been the effort by some protesters to bar members of the press in the name of creating a “safe space” to air their grievances. Many students have voiced concerns that the media would mischaracterize the story or, conversely, that the mere presence of journalists in a public forum would make students uncomfortable voicing their opinions. On November 9, University of Missouri communications professor Melissa Click made headlines when she asked for “muscle” to remove a student journalist from a campus protest […]

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  • Kansas Court of Appeals Decides Off-Campus Tweeting Case

    October 2, 2015

    Last week, the Kansas Court of Appeals handed down its decision in Yeasin v. University of Kansas, affirming a district court ruling reversing the expulsion of a student for purely off-campus conduct, namely, tweets about another student. The court’s decision was based on narrow grounds, thus avoiding lurking questions regarding free speech and the scope of Title IX. But it may have set the stage for those unanswered issues to become front and center the next time similar facts arise. The case dealt with the expulsion of University of Kansas (KU) student Navid Yeasin, whom the university found guilty of […]

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  • Settlement in University of Kansas Open Records Case Suggests Way Forward

    September 10, 2015

    Last October, FIRE wrote the University of Kansas (KU) expressing concern about the threat to academic freedom posed by an open records request filed with the university by a student group seeking a wide range of information related to the work of lecturer Art Hall. To prevent the university from complying with the request—which focused in significant part on Hall’s relationship to Charles and David Koch, Koch Industries, and related foundations—Hall filed suit in state court in December. A judge quickly imposed a temporary restraining order preventing the university from fully satisfying the group’s request while the court determined which […]

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  • Kansas Universities Fight Over the Limits of Title IX’s Reach

    June 23, 2015

    Last week on The Torch, we reported on the amici curiae brief filed by FIRE and the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) in Yeasin v. University of Kansas, currently before the Kansas Court of Appeals. This week, we want to highlight another amicus brief filed in the case—one that is noteworthy not just because of what it says, but because of who is saying it. Kansas State University (KSU) weighed in against its sister state school, the University of Kansas (KU), and the two institutions are battling it out over the scope of a university’s obligation to punish students’ off-campus […]

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  • ‘New York Times’ Columnist David Brooks Calls for End to Speech Codes

    January 13, 2015

    As advocates for free expression struggle to come to terms with last week’s tragic and deadly attack against the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, many are asking questions about what this means for freedom of speech everywhere, including in the United States. Last Thursday, New York Times columnist David Brooks asked those who have taken up the cause of free speech in response to the horrific violence against Charlie Hebdo cartoonists to defend speech at all times, even closer to home. If you missed it, it’s well worth a read. In particular, Brooks wonders about Americans’ commitment to defending free […]

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  • Judge’s Order Stops University of Kansas From Releasing Lecturer’s Emails

    December 12, 2014

    Last Thursday, University of Kansas (KU) lecturer Art Hall filed a lawsuit (PDF) in state court to prevent the institution from releasing his email correspondence in response to an open records request filed by the KU student group Students for a Sustainable Future. The student group sought information about Hall’s relationship to Charles and David Koch, who are substantial donors to the university. Hall is the executive director of the Center for Applied Economics, which operates within KU’s School of Business, but he had previously worked with Koch Industries. Hours after Hall filed suit, Judge Robert Fairchild of Douglas County […]

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  • AAUP Conference Highlights Lack of Protection for Faculty Social Media Participation

    June 13, 2014

    Yesterday FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, Will Creeley, and Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, Peter Bonilla, spoke at the 2014 American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Conference, which featured a series of presentations about university policies on faculty use of social media and other issues affecting academic freedom.

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  • Professor Explains Why Restrictive Social Media Policies Are So Harmful

    May 30, 2014

    As we wrote recently on The Torch, the Kansas Board of Regents has approved a revised social media policy regulating the speech of faculty members at the state’s public colleges and universities. The Board’s decision came despite the fact that the policy has been the subject of much criticism from free speech advocates, including FIRE, due to the fact that it authorizes punishment for constitutionally protected speech and leaves professors uncertain of their expressive rights.

    Oliver Bateman, an attorney and professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, expresses many of the same concerns in an excellent column yesterday for Al Jazeera America.

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  • Kansas Board of Regents Approves Self-Contradictory, Unclear Social Media Policy

    May 15, 2014

    Yesterday afternoon, the Kansas Board of Regents approved a revised policy on the “improper use of social media” by faculty and staff at the state’s public colleges and universities. The widely criticized policy asserts a commitment to freedom of speech yet authorizes punishment for constitutionally protected speech, and it still leaves professors unsure of what speech a university might sanction them for.

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  • Still Digging: Kansas State Board of Regents’ Latest Social Media Policy Remains Flawed

    May 9, 2014

    Way back in January, I wrote a post here on The Torch telling the Kansas State Board of Regents to reacquaint itself with the first rule of holes: If you’re in one, stop digging.

    Unfortunately, the Board didn’t take my advice. So here we are in May, still talking about how the First Amendment rights of faculty members at Kansas’ public universities are threatened by the Board’s deeply flawed attempt to regulate social media. To label this lack of progress “disappointing” would be an understatement.

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  • FIRE Warns Kansas Board of Regents About Inadequate Proposed Social Media Policy Revisions

    May 2, 2014

    Back in December, the Kansas Board of Regents enacted a policy on the “improper use of social media” by employees of Kansas’ public institutions of higher education that put academic freedom at risk. In response to a wave of criticism, the Board created a faculty workgroup to review the policy. The workgroup’s proposed policy released in early March, dropped several problematic provisions of the current policy in favor of broad free speech affirmations and narrow exceptions for punishable conduct. The Board Governance Committee has now drafted its proposed policy revisions in response to the faculty. The proposed revisions include promises of academic freedom but also, problematically, leave in place the overbroad and vague provisions that allow for punishment of constitutionally protected expression.

    FIRE sent a letter yesterday urging the Board to adopt the language of the faculty workgroup policy in order to avoid the serious problems presented by both the current policy and the BGC’s proposal.

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  • Thomas Jefferson Center Announces 2014 ‘Muzzle’ Awards

    April 10, 2014

    Thomas Jefferson’s birthday is on Sunday, and that means it’s time for the “Jefferson Muzzle” awards, granted by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression! Torch readers won’t be surprised to see a few FIRE cases on this year’s list of “winners.”

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  • Kansas Faculty Workgroup Drafts Social Media Policy Affirming First Amendment and Urging Best Practices

    March 4, 2014

    In January, the Kansas Board of Regents created a “workgroup” of public university faculty and staff to review the Board’s controversial new policy on “improper use of social media.” Recognizing the serious threat that some of the Board’s provisions pose to protected expression, the workgroup vowed to do more rewriting than reviewing, and yesterday they delivered.

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  • KU Senate Urges Kansas Board of Regents to Suspend Controversial Social Media Policy

    February 10, 2014

    Last month, the Kansas Board of Regents denied a faculty group’s request for the suspension of the Board’s controversial and overbroad social media policy while that policy was being reviewed. Now the University of Kansas (KU) Senate has approved a resolution reiterating that the policy “infringes on the right to freedom of expression” and should be suspended pending review. As Torch readers may recall, the policy, passed in December, allows the chief executive officer of a university to fire a faculty member if he or she posts anything on social media that “impairs … harmony among co-workers” or is, in […]

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  • Kansas Faculty Workgroup Plans to Rewrite Overbroad Policy

    January 27, 2014

    Earlier this month, the Kansas Board of Regents created a “workgroup” to review its overbroad and vague new policy on “improper use of social media” by faculty at Kansas public colleges and universities. As my colleague Will Creeley reported last Thursday, the Board refused to suspend the policy during review, leaving faculty still at risk of being fired for posts that “impair[] … harmony among co-workers” or are “contrary to the best interest of the university,” among other things. But happily, the workgroup has already shown greater respect for faculty free speech rights—the Lawrence Journal-World reported Friday that the group plans to “disregard th[e] policy and […]

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  • Hey, Kansas Board of Regents: Remember the First Rule of Holes…

    January 23, 2014

    Last week, Peggy Lowe of Kansas City public radio station KCUR reported that the Kansas Board of Regents has denied a faculty group’s request that the Board immediately suspend the frighteningly broad social media policy it imposed system-wide late last December. This latest headscratcher is conclusive proof that the Board has entirely forgotten the first rule of holes: When you find yourself in one, stop digging. Surely Torch readers remember this gem of a speech code—but if you need a refresher, this is the one that allows for the firing of a professor whose post on Twitter “impairs … harmony among co-workers” or whose Facebook […]

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  • Pittsburg State President Unintentionally Concedes Problem with Kansas Social Media Policy

    January 13, 2014

    Facing mounting criticism that its new policy on “improper use of social media” endangers not just academic freedom but potentially also the University of Kansas’s accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, the Kansas Board of Regents is continuing with its plan to form a “workgroup” that will review the policy. Faculty rights advocates are concerned about the policy’s broad and vaguely-worded prohibitions on, among other things, “impair[ing] harmony among co-workers” or making a communication that is, according to a university’s CEO’s judgment, “contrary to the best interest of the university.” And in trying to alleviate faculty concerns, Pittsburg State University (PSU) President Steve Scott has illustrated exactly why […]

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  • Do Kansas Regents’ New Social Media Restrictions Threaten Accreditation?

    January 9, 2014

    Professor Susan Twombly, chairwoman of the University of Kansas’ (KU’s) Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, believes that the Kansas Board of Regents’ new social media restrictions on faculty threatened the accreditation of KU. Why? The Lawrence Journal-World (Kan.) reports: Her concerns largely center on one of the criteria for accreditation through the HLC, which requires that the university be “committed to freedom of expression and the pursuit of truth in teaching and learning,” as stated in an HLC accreditation guide. Another component requires the university to establish and follow “fair and ethical policies for its governing board, administration, faculty and staff.” […]

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  • Kansas Board of Regents to Review Controversial Social Media Policy

    January 2, 2014

    The Kansas Board of Regents announced Tuesday that it will create a “workgroup” to review the new policy on “improper use of social media” by faculty that has earned a steady stream of criticism from academic freedom advocates since it was adopted two weeks ago. FIRE, the ACLU of Kansas, and the National Coalition Against Censorship sent a joint letter (PDF) to the Board on December 20, urging a repeal of the policy. As we noted in our letter, the policy puts protected faculty speech at risk for censorship or punishment because it is both overbroad and vague. The Board’s new statement says: Because of concerns expressed regarding the Board of […]

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  • ‘Slate’ Slams Kansas Board of Regents’ Outrageous New Social Media Policy

    December 24, 2013

    As a Torch reader, you’re probably already familiar with the controversial new social media policy adopted last week by the Kansas Board of Regents that empowers public universities in the state to terminate faculty whose speech in social media, among other things, “impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers” or “is contrary to the best interest of the university,” whatever that means in practice. Yesterday, Slate columnist Rebecca Schuman joined the chorus of critics condemning the policy. In her column, titled “The Brave New World of Academic Censorship,” Schuman explains the tremendous threat this policy poses to professors’ academic freedom and free speech. She writes: This new policy will effectively […]

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  • FIRE, ACLU of Kansas, and NCAC Send Letter to Kansas Board of Regents; Board Hints at Changes

    December 23, 2013

    On Friday, FIRE, the ACLU Foundation of Kansas, and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) sent a joint letter (PDF) to the Kansas Board of Regents urging the Board to rescind its controversial new policy restricting the use of social media by faculty and staff at public colleges and universities across the state. Among other things, the policy allows for a professor’s employment to be terminated when his or her speech “impairs … harmony among co-workers” or if, in the sole opinion of a university’s chief executive officer, the speech is “contrary to the best interest of the university.” After a wave of criticism (PDF) from […]

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  • FIRE, AAUP Express Alarm Over New Kansas Social Media Policy

    December 20, 2013

    The Kansas Board of Regents adopted a new policy Wednesday that subjects faculty and staff speech on social media to vaguely-worded and broad restrictions. The nine-member board approved the policy, which governs dozens of colleges and universities across Kansas, with little, if any, input from professors. While a press release issued by the Board claims that the policy relies on language from the U.S. Supreme Court and has been approved by the state attorney general, professors and civil libertarians have pointed to several aspects of the policy that put professors’ First Amendment rights at risk. The policy change comes in the wake of the controversy surrounding […]

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  • AAUP: Academic Freedom Applies to Electronic Communication

    December 6, 2013

    Last month, the American Association of University Professors drafted a report reaffirming its conclusions from a 2004 report that electronic communications should be governed by the same principles of academic freedom as expression in traditional media. November’s report acknowledges that even in the past nine years, technology has advanced significantly in ways that have “potentially profound implications for both privacy and free expression.” But as the AAUP writes, the overriding principle articulated in its 2004 report still applies: Academic freedom, free inquiry, and freedom of expression within the academic community may be limited to no greater extent in electronic format than they are in […]

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  • U. of Kansas Professor Assigned to Non-Classroom Duties

    October 28, 2013

    The University of Kansas (KU) released a statement last Thursday that David Guth, the professor who was put on administrative leave after a controversial tweet last month, will not return to teaching in the classroom this year. Instead, “Guth has been assigned additional non-classroom responsibilities … including various service and administrative assignments” which “will be completed away from campus to the greatest extent possible.” The statement explains the decision, which was made by seven members of the faculty and staff: “The committee conducted a full review, and their input was instrumental in arriving at this decision,” Gray-Little said. “Our decisions throughout this situation […]

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  • U. of Kansas Faculty, Staff Declare Support for Suspended Professor’s First Amendment Rights

    October 3, 2013

    As FIRE’s Peter Bonilla reported yesterday, 13 faculty members of the University of Kansas (KU) journalism department released a disappointing statement supporting the university’s suspension of journalism professor David Guth after he posted a controversial statement on Twitter regarding the National Rifle Association and September’s Navy Yard shootings. Thankfully, more than 100 current and former KU staff and faculty members have recognized the importance of freedom of expression and have signed on to a declaration of support for Guth’s First Amendment rights. The statement reads: As members of the faculty and staff of the University of Kansas, the undersigned individuals […]

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  • On Professor’s Suspension at KU, Journalism Faculty Get Free Speech Wrong, Anthropology Faculty Get It Right

    October 2, 2013

    Recently, FIRE’s Will Creeley took to The Huffington Post  to explain why the University of Kansas significantly erred in suspending journalism professor David Guth, who became a lightning rod of controversy following a controversial tweet in the aftermath of September’s Navy Yard shootings. FIRE wrote to KU on September 22; KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little released a statement attempting to mollify the situation. While Gray-Little clarified that the suspension was “not because of the nature of the professor’s comments,” she nonetheless justified it by stating that it was imposed “to avoid further disruption of the learning environment. As Will pointed out, […]

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  • The University of Kansas’ Response to Professor’s Controversial Tweet Threatens Speech. Here’s Why.

    September 25, 2013

    Over in The Huffington Post, I explain why the University of Kansas’ decision to suspend—pardon me, “administratively withdraw”—Professor David Guth threatens the free speech rights of all KU students and faculty.  Drawing on FIRE’s letter to KU, sent over the weekend, I point out that because Guth’s speech is protected by the First Amendment, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s claim that the suspension is necessary because the university needs time to figure out what to do next just doesn’t wash. I write:  Gray-Little states that Guth was put on administrative leave "so that the university may review the entire situation." But this […]

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  • The University of Kansas Controversy: Defending the Freedom to Tweet

    September 23, 2013

    University of Kansas (KU) Professor David Guth made news last week for the following tweet in the wake of the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard: “#NavyYardShooting 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.” Considering the tenor of the statement, outrage predictably ensued. Among the outraged are some members of the Kansas legislature, at least one of whom has plainly stated that he will not “support any budget proposals or recommendations for the University of Kansas” as long as Guth remains employed […]

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  • Censorship of Art on Campus Is Also Unlearning Liberty

    August 16, 2013

    Tom Gregg, Bad Apple, oil on panel, one of the works censored at U. of KansasIn 2002, someone at the Department of Justice had curtains draped strategically over an aluminum statue in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice to cover up Lady Justice’s exposed breast. Whether fairly or not, John Ashcroft, then Attorney General, was widely mocked for this move.  The August 13 edition of the Dartmouth Review has an article by James G. Rascoff that discusses Dartmouth College’s decision to cover another work of art from the 1930s. And yesterday, the Associated Press’s Maria Sudekum reported that the Medical Center […]

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  • KU’s Student Senate Votes to Protect Students’ Speech Rights

    March 19, 2012

    The University Daily Kansan reports that the University of Kansas’ (KU’s) Student Senate has acted to protect students’ speech rights when expressing themselves online or in social media. The Student Senate’s policy changes, which are subject to the approval of KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, will be reflected in the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. The Kansan reports: Article 8 of the code on campus expression was updated, and expands student’s [sic] freedom of speech. Students cannot be punished for what is said on social media websites or through other online communication unless it is disruptive to the University’s operations. […]

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  • ‘Daily Kansan’ Highlights KU’s Red-Light Speech Codes, but Point Remains to be Made About FIRE’s Speech Code Research

    October 19, 2011

    In an article published yesterday, The University Daily Kansan, a student newspaper at the University of Kansas (KU), helpfully brings attention to KU’s speech codes. The article, written by student Bobby Burch, in particular highlights KU’s two “red light” harassment policies. Quoting me, the article breaks down the First Amendment problems with these policies: FIRE claims that the University’s “Housing Handbook” contains two harassment and sexual assault policies that limit free speech. One University policy that the group takes issue with states that harassment includes conduct that “purposely humiliates another person, stalks another person, or makes degrading comments or prank […]

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