As a broad response to the controversy around Kansas University journalism professor David Guth, the KU Faculty Senate voted to affirm the free speech and academic rights for all faculty at the university.
The statement, affirmed unanimously by the Senate, read: "The University of Kansas Faculty Senate endorses the principles of First Amendment rights, academic freedom, and due process, and will work to see that these principles are followed with respect to all faculty."
While it made no mention of David Guth, who was put on paid administrative leave following a tweet he posted after the Sept. 16 Washington Navy Yard shooting, the resolution was prompted in part by a statement by the Senate's Committee on Faculty Rights, Privileges and Responsibilities that dealt directly with the Guth situation.
The committee's statement addressed the controversy in far stronger and less general terms. It noted, "Extramural utterances rarely bear upon the faculty member's fitness for the position." It also stated that though KU administration said that his leave did not constitute a professional sanction against him, it "has the appearance of being a sanction applied without compliance with University Rules and Regulations or with the Faculty Code of Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct."
The Faculty Senate's executive committee decided earlier this week to put language in front of the Senate supporting faculty rights, but decided to remove specific mention of the Guth controversy in favor of the more general affirmation of faculty rights. Senate President Christopher Steadham said that was partly "out of respect for the situation and the law of unintended consequences."
Along with the assertion of faculty rights, faculty governance will have representation on the committee formed by KU officials to review the duration of Guth's leave and the conditions for his return, Steadham said.
The controversy began after the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C., last month, when Guth posted on Twitter: "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."
Conservatives, gun rights advocates and others condemned Guth in the days following his post, saying he was wishing death on the children of National Rifle Association members. Guth said he wasn't advocating violence, but trying to make gun-rights advocates see mass shootings from the point of view of the victims' families.
Top KU officials and the Kansas Board of Regents sharply and publicly criticized Guth's statement. Guth was put on indefinite administrative leave the Friday following the post, and KU said it would conduct a review of the situation.
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said Guth was put on leave to avoid disruption of his classes "and not because of the nature of the professor's comments, regardless of how controversial they may be."
More than 100 professors at the university have signed various statements supporting Guth's rights to free speech. At the same time, Kansas state legislators, including Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, have said Guth should be fired. Other legislators have said if he is not fired, they will not vote for KU's budget.