Proposed social media policy procedure outlines rights of those accused at KU

The last step of implementing a controversial social media policy at Kansas University is now on its way toward codification.

The University Senate Executive Committee on Tuesday settled on a social media policy procedure to recommend for adoption by KU. The procedure outlines what steps would be taken when a faculty or staff member — including student employees — is suspected of using social media improperly.

University Senate President Jonathan Mayhew, professor in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, said many in the KU community — himself included — do not support the social media policy the Kansas Board of Regents approved in May. But since it is in place, he said, it’s critical to have a procedure in place, too.

“Without a procedure, we’re left unprotected,” Mayhew said.

The proposed social media policy procedure requires an initial review panel to determine there are reasonable grounds to believe the policy was violated, and then a substantive review board to consider evidence and recommend disciplinary action. The draft procedure outlines who would sit on those panels, the timeframe they have for the process and the appeal rights of the accused.

Mayhew said the draft will be presented to the full University Senate on Thursday, with the goal of having a lengthier discussion in February and a vote in March.

He said he expected and welcomed debate.

The Regents social media policy allows a university leader to fire a faculty or staff member for posting messages on social media that are “contrary to the best interests of the employer.” Many in the university community have decried the policy, saying it impedes free speech and academic freedom.

Regents’ approval of the policy followed months of controversy that started in September 2013 when KU journalism professor David Guth posted an anti-NRA tweet that caused a national uproar.