Kansas University journalism Professor David Guth will not return to the classroom this year, but his administrative leave will end as of today and he will be eligible to teach in the fall of 2014, the university announced Thursday.
Guth, who was placed on administrative leave in September after a posting on social media about the NRA drew a firestorm of protest, issued a written apology on Thursday. Meanwhile, the majority leader of the Kansas Senate indicated that the university’s decision not to fire Guth might not sit well with some legislators.
Provost Jeffrey Vitter made the decision about Guth’s future based on the recommendation of a seven-member committee of faculty and staff. It was approved by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, the university said.
“The committee conducted a full review, and their input was instrumental in arriving at this decision,” Gray-Little said in a statement. “Our decisions throughout this situation have been guided by the facts and the law, respecting the interests of our students and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”
Instead of teaching, Guth has been assigned additional nonclassroom responsibilities, including service and administrative assignments, in the journalism school for the rest of the semester, the university said in a news release. The work will be done away from campus as much as possible.
Tim Caboni, KU vice chancellor for public affairs, said having Guth come back to teach in the middle of a term would have created a significant disruption and would not be in the best interest of students. Caboni said Guth will be able to teach once he returns next fall from a planned sabbatical in the spring, but Caboni added that actual course scheduling is determined by the KU School of Journalism.
Caboni said Guth has been paid at full salary while on leave and that will continue as he works in an administrative capacity. Guth makes $82,703 a year, according to documents provided by the state of Kansas.
Guth was placed on leave after he posted a controversial tweet following the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C., in September that left 13 dead. Guth posted a message on the social media site Twitter after the shooting saying that “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.”
Guth said in a statement Thursday: “My September 16 tweet following the Navy Yard shootings has caused a great deal of pain for many people, and for that I apologize. Some interpreted my tweet differently than it was intended: I don’t want anyone’s children hurt. The fact that my words were misconstrued is my fault — I am the professional communicator and I didn’t do a very good job. For that, I apologize. I also regret that my statements have had a negative impact on the university community. Finally, I am grateful for the support I have received from family, friends, colleagues and many others whom I have never met. It is much appreciated.”
Gray-Little said in September that Guth was placed on indefinite 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.”
At that time, Guth said he agreed to take administrative leave “in light of the abusive email threats I and others have received.”
Kansas Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, who had earlier called on KU to fire Guth, said Thursday that he was disappointed in KU’s decision to keep Guth on staff. “This is a sad day for the University of Kansas and the state as a whole,” Bruce said.
Bruce hinted that legislators won’t forget KU’s decision. “When Professor Guth took to social media to wish death and damnation upon innocent children it reflected poorly on us all. By failing to render stronger sanctions against him for his actions, I fear the Legislature will conclude that the University of Kansas has just given its endorsement to the culture of violence Professor Guth sought to glorify.”
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, also had called for Guth’s dismissal. And some legislators said if Guth remained on KU’s payroll they would not vote for appropriations for the school.
Next week, legislative leaders, who voted for budget cuts to higher education in the recent legislative session, will be on campus visiting KU as part of budget preparations for the next legislative session, which starts in January.
The seven member committee that made the recommendation to Vitter was led by Chairwoman Mary Lee Hummert, vice provost for faculty development. Members were Rosemary O’Leary, distinguished professor of public affairs and administration; Ralph Oliver, chief of University of Kansas Public Safety; Michael Rosenberg, director, Office of Risk Management; Chris Steadham, associate librarian and president of the Faculty Senate; Barry Swanson, associate vice provost for campus operations; Jane Tuttle, assistant vice provost for student affairs.