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Archive for Thursday, May 22, 2014

Journalism educators association calls on regents to reverse social media policy

May 22, 2014

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A national association of journalism educators has called on the Kansas Board of Regents to reverse the social media policy it finalized earlier this month.

Paula Poindexter, president of the nonprofit Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, said in a recent statement that the policy "restricts academic freedom, violates First Amendment rights, interferes with the professional education of those seeking journalism careers and suppresses the intellectual discourse that universities should champion."

The association called on the regents to reverse the policy, arguing that "the very suggestion that social media expression should be subjected to guidelines conflicts with academic freedom" and free speech.

The statement noted that "social media, and Twitter specifically, have become essential tools in gathering and disseminating news."

"If Kansas' journalism professors are afraid to teach students how to use these reporting tools because they may violate a vague social media policy, the future journalists they train will be unprepared for the real world of journalism in the digital age."

Ann Brill, dean of the KU School of Journalism, said the policy has not affected journalism education at KU.

"We are doing what we've always done," Brill said. "We as a school, collectively, will not be afraid to teach students how to use reporting tools."

The regents originally passed the policy in December. It allows university leaders to suspend and fire employees for social media posts that conflict with the best interest of the university, impair discipline or workplace harmony, or affect the university's ability to efficiently provide services, among other violations.

After critics blasted the policy for being vague and a threat to speech at state universities, the regents created a work group this spring to review the policy.

The work group proposed an advisory policy free of all disciplinary language. In May the regents adopted instructions for the policy to be applied "in a manner that is consistent with the First Amendment and academic freedom principles," but retained most of the punitive provisions in the policy that concerned critics.

The regents declined an interview request for this story through spokeswoman Breeze Richardson.

The regents passed the policy after KU journalism professor David Guth's anti-NRA tweet started a nationwide controversy and sparked calls for Guth to be fired, including from prominent lawmakers.

Brill said she had no comment about the Guth incident.

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