Archive for Sunday, June 8, 2014

KU moving quickly on procedures for social media rule

June 8, 2014


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Faculty and staff at Kansas universities have been living with a social media policy that they fought for nearly six months to kill.

Now, the schools are starting to plan how to apply the policy.

At Kansas University, the provost's office is working quickly with university governance to set procedures for applying the revised policy should violations occur.

The provost's office and governance leaders are forming a committee that will recommend a process for reviewing social media violations.

KU Provost Jeff Vitter said that the goal is to establish "a process or procedure so we're clear to everyone that everything that we do will be very well thought out and not some quick reaction."

The social media policy was mandated by the Kansas Board of Regents in reaction to an anti-NRA tweet last fall from KU journalism professor David Guth that stirred controversy nationwide.

One possible way of approaching violations of the social media policy, which Vitter pitched to the University Senate this spring, would allow for the creation of an ad hoc group to review a situation involving a social media post and make a recommendation to the chancellor.

Potential violations would likely be brought to administrators from "some person in the hierarchy" coming forward with a complaint about an employee's social media post, Vitter said.

Whatever comes out of the committee, it will likely contain references to KU's existing grievance and due process rules.

Those procedures vary according to the different classification of employees, but all provide employees some means of addressing disciplinary actions employees find unwarranted or a violation of university policy.

Each grievance mechanism also leaves ultimate decision-making power to the chancellor or provost.

Getting references to due process into the social media policy procedures are a priority for Jonathan Mayhew, president of the University Senate and a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at KU, who will chair the committee.

"We can't really convince the regents to revoke the policy," Mayhew said. In lieu of that, Mayhew said he would work with the committee to "make sure that the process in place respects faculty rights and staff rights as much as possible."

Vitter anticipates the committee's product will be in the university's policy library by the time school begins again. That means KU's full governance bodies won't get a chance to see it before it comes university policy, but Vitter said he expects it will eventually be endorsed by those bodies.

The committee's meetings will not be open to the public, though their proposal will be released to the campus for feedback in late summer or early fall, according to Gavin Young, a KU spokesman.

The effort to develop a procedure comes after faculty and staff lost the fight to remove the social media rules.

Shortly after passing the policy unanimously in December, the regents formed a work group of faculty and staff to review it. Later in the spring that group proposed an alternate policy that would strip the original of its teeth by removing language allowing university leaders to suspend and fire employees for improper social media posts.

As the process played out, various groups asked the regents to suspend the policy, with no success. In May the regents added references to freedom of speech and academic freedom from the work group to a revised policy, but kept the discipline and firing provisions.

The day the regents voted on the final policy, the Council of Faculty Senate Presidents, representing faculty governance bodies across Kansas, issued a statement reiterating, "our unanimous opposition to the chilling effect created by the punitive aspects of this policy."


Thomas Bryce Jr. 3 years, 8 months ago

I am Not a clairvoyant, but I see a Legal Challenge Coming the First time they try to implement this "Policy". This has gotten national attention and it is not Flattering to the State of Kansas or KU. The only supporters are the Regents. I am sure there must be a Reason For that. Who appoints the Regents?

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