Posts tagged with Kansas Board Of Regents

State senators introduce bill in attempt to permanently exempt universities from concealed carry law

A group of five democratic state senators — including two from Douglas County — is trying to reverse the portion of a law requiring public colleges to allow concealed carry of guns on their campuses starting in July 2017.

Under current law, the personal and family protection act, postsecondary educational institutions are among a handful of entities allowed a four-year exemption before they must allow guns, like other state and municipal buildings have been required to do for the past few years. That exemption runs out in July 2017. (Sidenote: Other entities with the same four-year exemption are medical care facilities, adult care homes, community mental health centers and indigent health care clinics.)

Senate Bill No. 348, introduced Jan. 21, would scratch colleges from the exemption list and, instead, state that the law does not apply at all to postsecondary educational institution buildings, or buildings leased by them. (Another note: Buildings on the grounds of the Kansas state school for the deaf or the Kansas state school for the blind are currently the only place the concealed carry law doesn’t apply, according to the legislation.)

The bill was referred Friday to the Committee on Federal and State Affairs. You can track its progress via kslegislature.org.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus. by Sara Shepherd

The bill was introduced by senators Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan; Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita; Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence; Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City; Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City.

Holland said universities should be able to decide whether they want to prohibit guns and not have that decision “forced upon them” by the state.

“Honestly, the schools won’t have enough money to put the proper security machines in place to rectify if they want to keep guns off campus,” he said. “Once again the state has overreached.”

Francisco said she agreed prohibiting weapons should be an institutional decision. She added that since only people 21 and older are allowed by law to carry concealed, practically half the people on college campuses would not be allowed to, which she called inconsistent and “disconcerting.”

I’ve heard a representative may be planning to introduce a related measure in the House. I’ll try to do a follow up report if and when that happens. (See update, below.)

The Kansas Board of Regents and state university administrators — at least at Kansas University — in the meantime aren’t counting on any changes in the law and continue to plan for the arrival of guns on campus beginning in July 2017. The Regents last week passed a statewide policy directing individual schools to create their own, more specific policies, about how the law will be implemented on their respective campuses. Read more about what the Regents policy says here.

So if the law that means guns will come to campus has been around a couple of years already, why are constituents on campus and legislators in Topeka just now speaking out against it?

“When it was four years from now, people could say, ‘Oh I’m going to deal with that later,’” Francisco said. “I think now there are many discussions about how could we actually address this.”

UPDATE (Thursday):

Rep. Barbara Ballard, (D) Lawrence, said she introduced a nearly identical bill in the House Standing Committee on Appropriations last week. She said she’s hopeful that by introducing the bill in committee, it will have a “stronger chance of going somewhere.”

Ballard’s bill, House Bill 2526, also would move postsecondary institutions off the four-year exemption list and onto the list of entities to which the concealed carry law does not apply, she said.

“Concealed carry and education don’t go together,” she said. Ballard added that, under current law, if universities want to prohibit it in any buildings after July 2017 their only option is to put in security measures. “We don’t have that kind of money, and higher ed doesn’t have that kind of money.”

Ballard was inspired by a statewide poll that she said showed 82 percent of Kansans don’t support campus concealed carry, as well as university students and faculty members speaking out against it. When the initial legislation was passed several years ago, 2017 seemed far away, she said. “The closer we get to it then the students on our campus and the students on other campuses start getting involved.”

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 13 comments from Keith Strawder John Middleton Emily Lange Steve Bunch Bob Smith Angel Gillaspie Bob Summers Sarah Bloxsom Gary Denning Richard Aronoff and 1 others

KU v. K-State court disagreement inspires Board of Regents to propose ‘Notice of Litigation Policy’

If one state university is going to sue another state university, the Kansas Board of Regents at least wants to know about it first. Same goes for when a university plans to file a brief opposing another university in a court case.

That’s the gist of a proposed “Notice of Litigation Policy” the Regents are scheduled to discuss at their monthly meeting Wednesday. According to a Regents memo, it falls under a board goal of addressing inconsistencies in the way state universities handle Title IX investigations and proceedings. (Reminder: Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education, and it requires universities to investigate and adjudicate cases of sexual harassment, sexual violence and intimate partner violence that create a hostile environment for a student on campus.)

UPDATE: The Board of Regents approved the policy on Wednesday as written with no discussion.

A KU-versus-K-State situation inspired the proposed Regents policy.

It’s the case of Navid Yeasin v. KU. KU expelled Yeasin in 2013 when he tweeted a series of derogatory comments about an ex-girlfriend (also a KU student) after the university ordered him not to contact her. He sued KU in 2014.

KU argued that it acted according to its responsibility to provide a secure learning environment for its students, and that Yeasin’s off-campus actions created a hostile environment on campus for the woman.

Douglas County District Court Judge Robert Fairchild ruled KU did not have jurisdiction to expel Yeasin because there was no evidence that the incidents leading to his expulsion occurred on campus. In September 2015 the Court of Appeals upheld that ruling, because KU’s Student Code didn’t give the university authority to act when the misconduct occurred outside its campus or at university sponsored or supervised events. (Note: After being sued, KU updated the Student Code in November 2014 to clarify that the university does have off-campus jurisdiction in Title IX cases.)

According to the Regents memo, here’s how K-State got involved:

“They were interested in the case primarily because they had made the determination that Title IX did not require the University to investigate and hear student complaints of sexual harassment when the harassing activity did not occur on campus or at a campus sponsored event. Their concern was heightened when the case was appealed to the Court of Appeals, the ruling of which could have impacted all the universities by the Court’s interpretation of Title IX responsibilities. Though the attorneys for both institutions had discussed the situation and attempted to come to terms, they were unsuccessful in reaching a mutual understanding of the law and/or the practical effects of interpreting the law in various ways. Accordingly, Kansas State University filed an amicus brief with the Court of Appeals taking a position contrary to that of the University of Kansas.”

And the kicker, according to the Regents memo: “Board members became aware of the controversy only when it was reported in the news.”

When it comes to Title IX, “having state universities disagree about the parameters of this federal law was unacceptable,” according to the Regents memo. The proposed notice of litigation policy is envisioned as one step in studying current campus Title IX practices and policies, and ultimately developing a board policy to add uniformity.

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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Kansas university employee gun survey results are in; KU generally more anti-gun than other schools

Most — 70 percent — Kansas state university employees said they’d like to see state law amended so guns won’t be allowed on campus starting in 2017, and 7 percent want to keep the current law but extend universities’ exemption past 2017. Of the other university employees, 19 percent want to allow guns on campus, and 4 percent answered “don’t know.”

That’s according to opinions revealed in a statewide survey of Kansas Board of Regents university employees, which closed last week. It was prepared and administered by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University for the Regents Council of Faculty Senate Presidents.

Not unlike preliminary results from a similar survey of students statewide, percentage-wise KU’s Lawrence campus was overwhelmingly more anti-gun than any other school in almost every category.

Statewide, the employee response rate was 54 percent. KU had the second-highest response rate with 64.7 percent, behind Fort Hays State University with 67.1 percent.

Following are a few other figures from the employee survey — I’m highlighting employee-specific ones. This is only a sliver of the many survey questions, though. If you’d like to take a look at the entire results for yourself, click here.

Image from state university employee gun survey results, Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University.

Image from state university employee gun survey results, Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University. by Sara Shepherd

• 54 percent of respondents said campus carry would negatively affect how they teach, and 52 percent said it would limit academic freedom. (At KU, 65 percent said guns would negatively affect how they teach, and 64 percent said guns would limit academic freedom.)

• 51 percent said campus carry would make them less likely to work at their respective schools. (At KU, that number was 61 percent, again the highest of any state school.) 42 percent said campus carry wouldn’t affect their decision. Eight percent said campus carry would make them more likely to work at their respective schools.

• Generally — including at sporting venues, offices, lab spaces, classrooms, dorms and open areas —respondents were more OK with employees carrying guns than students and visitors (recall, as I previously reported, the students themselves felt the same way). Specifically, 29 percent of faculty and staff thought faculty and staff should be allowed to carry concealed in faculty offices, but only 14 percent thought students should be allowed to carry in offices. There was even less support for visitors carrying in offices.

Do this and the student survey matter? Most people I’ve heard talk about this don’t think it’s realistic to get the Kansas Legislature to backtrack on this law, though some anti-campus-carry folks have indicated they want to try.

It sounds more likely that survey results could inform how each state university decides how to implement the law on their respective campuses. The Regents are scheduled to approve a statewide policy next week, which will leave it up to each school to determine specifics such as which buildings to install security in to prohibit guns and where on campus to offer secure storage for guns.

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 2 comments from Robert Lutz Teri Griffin-Guntert

Preliminary results are in from statewide student gun survey

In November, students at state universities across Kansas were invited to take an online survey about concealed carry on campus. More than 20,500 students took the survey and — this may surprise many — they appear to be roughly split on some campuses over whether they’re OK with campus concealed carry.

That’s according to Kansas University Student Body President Jessie Pringle, who shared some preliminary results of the survey with the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday. Pringle is chairwoman of the Regents Students’ Advisory Committee.

The Students’ Advisory Committee will prepare a formal executive summary and present that along with complete results from the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University, which helped the group prepare the survey, after the first of the year, Pringle said. That report is expected to have more details about sample size and other data.

Here are a few more stats — for all universities — from the preliminary results:

• 55 percent of students want to amend the law so that guns are not allowed on campus; 14 percent want to keep the current law but extend the exemption past 2017 so that universities could continue prohibiting guns; 31 percent want to keep the current law and allow the exemption to expire.

• In general, students were more OK with faculty and staff being allowed to carry concealed on campus than they were with fellow students or visitors carrying guns.

• 19 percent of students said they’d be willing to pay an additional fee to help provide adequate security measures for buildings; 38 percent said they wouldn’t be willing; and 38 percent said it depends on the amount.

• 42 percent said allowing campus concealed carry would make them less likely to attend their university; 42 percent said it would not affect their decision; and 16 percent would be more likely to attend.

• Based on the school-by-school breakdown of responses, KU and KU Medical Center are generally the most against guns on campus, while Fort Hays State and Pittsburg State were generally the most accepting. (For example, only 20 percent of KU students said they support campus concealed carry. Fort Hays had 45 percent supporting, and Pittsburg had 44 percent.)

A similar survey of university faculty and staff is still open.

As of Wednesday morning that survey had garnered 10,000 responses, an overall response rate of 47 percent, according to Lorie Cook-Benjamin, Fort Hays State University associate professor and chairwoman of the Regents Council of Faculty Senate Presidents. That survey went live Dec. 3, and faculty and staff will be able to take it until Jan. 4, Cook-Benjamin said.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus. by Sara Shepherd

— Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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Guns on campus info session planned Tuesday at KU

Have questions about concealed weapons coming to the Kansas University campus? There’s an informational meeting planned next week that seeks to explain.

The University Senate is planning a Weapons on Campus Information Session from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in 120 Budig Hall (they say they've secured some overflow seating in case the crowd is too big for the auditorium). Here’s the invitation to KU faculty, staff and students from University Senate President Michael Williams, associate professor of journalism:

You are invited to join with other members of the KU community to share information about the coming changes in policies affecting the legalities of weapons on our campus.

Members of the University Senate Weapons on Campus Committee will present the latest draft of changes to the Kansas Board of Regents weapons policy. We will also explain specifics of the July 1, 2017 expiration of the exemption to the Kansas Family Protection Act which currently prohibits guns inside university buildings.

Williams emphasized at Tuesday’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee meeting that next week's event is envisioned to be informational rather than town hall forum-style.

“We will ... keep it focused,” he said, “purposely calling it an information session.”

There will be an email address set up to take questions during the event. The session also will be streamed live online. (I do not have the direct link for the feed yet, but I am guessing one will be shared later on the University Governance website, governance.ku.edu.)

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus. by Sara Shepherd

University Governance is seeking opinions about weapons on campus through a survey being sent out this week to all KU employees (employees at other Kansas Regents universities will also get the survey). The online survey for employees will be open through the month of December. KU and other Regents students took a similar survey last month.

I’ve written a fair amount about this issue and will undoubtedly write more. (I expect to be at Tuesday’s info session as well as the Kansas Board of Regents meeting later this month, when a statewide policy should be on the agenda.) If you’re not up to speed about what’s going on at the state and KU level, here are four stories that should help:

May 23, 2015: Kansas universities lack firm plan for concealed guns on campus, making some anxious

May 27, 2015: University Senate forms committee to address guns on campus

Nov. 3, 2015: Kansas Regents draft policy to prepare for concealed guns on college campuses

Nov. 5, 2015: KU Senate members lampoon law allowing concealed carry on campus

— Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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Dear KU students: What do you really think about guns in your classroom or dorm?

How do Kansas state university students really feel about concealed guns coming to campus? And what do they think about various policy scenarios that might be put in place to deal with that impending reality? A new survey — which students at Kansas University and other state schools should have in their email inboxes today — seeks answers.

At least at KU, I’ve overwhelmingly heard students and employees flat-out ridicule the law and say they hate the whole idea. But that’s just conversational. Most academics would probably agree with us journalists, the more hard data the better, so I’m pretty interested to see what this survey will reveal.

Members of the Students Advisory Committee to the Kansas Board of Regents (KU Student Body President Jessie Pringle is chairwoman) have been talking about doing the survey since their retreat in August and worked with the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University to create and execute it. Students have until Nov. 25 to take the survey, and results are expected to be out in December, according to a KU Student Senate news release.

“It’s important that students have a space to say something about their feelings of safety and security on campus whether that means carrying or prohibiting,” Pringle said, in the release. “Leaving out student voices does not create sound policy.”

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus. by Sara Shepherd

In case you missed my previous articles on the issue, here’s a CliffsNotes version of why guns are coming to campus: Under Kansas law, anyone who is legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon will be able to do so on college campuses as of July 1, 2017. If universities want to prohibit weapons inside any building, that building must be equipped with “adequate security measures” such as metal detectors or guards. Concealed weapons are already allowed on public property, but universities have an exemption that runs out in 2017. The Regents have drafted updates to their statewide weapons policy that they hope to vote on in mid-December. Then individual universities are supposed to develop more detailed implementation policies for their respective campuses.

“From the survey, SAC hopes to gain an aggregate and university specific opinions regarding guns on campus,” the KU Student Senate statement said. “SAC plans to bring the results to university administrations and the Kansas Board of Regents to ensure that the voices of students are heard.”

Here's some of what the survey wants to find out from students (questions paraphrased):

• Do you think concealed guns be prohibited or allowed in campus buildings, at sporting events or in outdoor areas? Do you feel the same way for employees, students and visitors?

• How strongly do you support or oppose gun storage lockers in various areas of campus? Does your opinion differ for handguns v. hunting rifles?

• How high a fee would you be willing to pay for your university to install these adequate security measures in buildings?

• In your opinion, how would allowing concealed carry on campus affect campus crime levels?

• How would allowing concealed carry on your campus affect your decision to attend this university?

— Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 81 comments from Jhorus Andrew Applegarth Barb Gordon Bob Smith Scott  Morgan Lawrence Freeman Dorothy Hoyt-Reed Ron Holzwarth Sam Crow Dreber and 12 others

‘Apply Kansas’ initiative wants low-income high schoolers to apply for college NOW; Folds of Honor founder speaks Thursday at KU; Kobach back on campus

Nationwide, 97 percent of high school students indicated on a survey that they want to go to college, but only 68 percent of 2014 high school graduates were enrolled. The gap is even wider among low-income students — although their college-going rates have doubled in recent decades, only half enroll in postsecondary education directly after high school.

That’s according to a Kansas Board of Regents news release announcing a new effort aimed at improving those numbers, “Apply Kansas: College Application Month.” Launched as part of the American College Application Campaign initiative, “Apply Kansas” aims to increase the number of students who apply to college early in their senior year, with a focus on low-income, first-generation and other students who might not otherwise apply, according to the Regents.

The 10 high schools planning “Apply Kansas” events this month are mostly in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita. Dodge City and Parsons high schools also are on the list. The high schools, not colleges, are the ones coordinating “Apply Kansas” events, according to the Regents, though the steering committee includes representatives from postsecondary schools.

KU’s Center for Educational Opportunity Programs works with Kansas City Kansas Public Schools to send representatives to college application events, said Mike Conley, academic adviser for KU's Upward Bound Program and a member of the Apply Kansas steering committee. There, he said, KU representatives provide guidance in selecting colleges and assistance in completing admissions applications.

KU is definitely not the only school in town available to the targeted audience. Kansas has many other universities, community colleges and technical schools.

"It is vital to the Kansas economy to increase the number of Kansans who have earned a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree, and the first step in that process is applying to college," Regent Helen Van Etten, chair of the Regents Academic Affairs Standing Committee, said in the news release. "This initiative will help more Kansas students realize the dream of attending college and set them on the path toward completing their educational goals as well as their career goals."


Footnotes

• As seen on TV — alum helps children of fallen vet's: Has anyone else noticed the Folds of Honor commercials on TV lately? (I should be able to tell you the network, but I can’t remember if my husband was watching the Royals or the NFL at the time, or what channel the TV was on. Sorry.) Well, the guy at the end — who is the Folds of Honor founder, a professional golfer, an F-16 pilot and People magazine’s “Hero of the Year,” among other things — is a KU alumnus.

The KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recently recognized Dan Rooney with its most prestigious honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award. He’ll accept the award and participate in a Q&A at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Dole Institute of Politics, 2350 Petefish Drive. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

This touching story (courtesy of the KU CLAS blog) of what inspired Rooney to start Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that gives scholarships to families of killed or disabled military veterans, is definitely worth a read.

• Kobach back on campus: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will participate in a symposium at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at The Commons in Spooner Hall, 1340 Jayhawk Blvd. “Protecting the Vote: Dialogues on Citizenship, Elections, and the Franchise” will examine election law conflicts and politics in America, 50 years after the passage and ratification of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Kobach, historians, political scientists and scholars will speak at the event, sponsored by KU’s Langston Hughes Center, Department of Political Science, Department of African and African-American Studies and School of Public Affairs and Administration.

Kobach also appeared at KU last month to debate a law professor over the pros and cons of restrictive voter identification laws.

• Famous KU art prof’s work on display: In case you missed feature reporter Joanna Hlavacek's story in the Journal-World’s Sunday A&E section, a recently opened exhibit at the Lawrence Arts Center features never-displayed paintings by Albert Bloch. Bloch painted with The Blue Rider, a Munich-based group of modernist artists, before joining the KU faculty and living the rest of his life in Lawrence.

"Arabesque: Masked Motley," 1955, by Albert Bloch

"Arabesque: Masked Motley," 1955, by Albert Bloch by Mike Yoder


Contact me

By email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187 or on Twitter @saramarieshep.

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Kansas Regents make top 10 list — for being anti-free speech, according to national group

The Kansas Board of Regents made the '10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech in 2014' list, announced today by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE.

Regarding the Regents and the lone other non-university list-maker, FIRE's announcement explains: “Two of the institutions listed aren’t colleges but still deserve inclusion for the profound effect they had on campus expression throughout the country last year.”

FIRE's beef with the Regents is the controversial social media policy approved last year. KU is now in the process of establishing a procedure to follow when someone is accused of violating that policy. Here’s the FIRE list, which you can read more about here.

• Brandeis University

• California State University, Fullerton

• Chicago State University

• Georgetown University

• University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

• University of Iowa

• Marquette University

• Modesto Junior College (Modesto, Calif.)

• Kansas Board of Regents

• U.S. Department of Education

Coincidentally, I wrote at more length than usual about this very issue — and other high-profile conflicts over academic freedom — in today’s paper. ICYMI, click here to read that story, ‘Academic freedom: Scholarly concept sparks lively mainstream debate.’

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The David Guth of Wisconsin

Some of you on the hill might remember a little incident last September involving a Kansas University journalism professor, a politically charged sentiment about the Navy Yard shootings in Washington, D.C., and a social media platform that disseminates statements of 140 characters or less.

I'm talking about David Guth, who was placed on administrative leave last fall by the KU administration after an anti-NRA tweet sparked outrage among conservatives and gun rights supporters.

Guth put KU and the journalism school in the national spotlight for reasons both entities would probably like to forget. But Guth wasn't alone among college professors who have come under fire for making politicized statements in an age of rapid-fire social media communication.

This week the Chronicle of Higher Education detailed the story of Rachel Slocum, an assistant professor of geography with the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse.

Like Guth, Slocum referenced current events in digital communication, only in this case the medium was email and it was directed at her students.

When last fall's government shutdown stalled a class assignment, which depended on government data from websites that were on hold with the shutdown, Slocum made an overt reference to the politics around the shutdown.

According to the Chronicle, Slocum wrote to her class in an email:

Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/Tea Party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government… [the rest of the project] will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government."

A student in Slocum's class, who was then interning at the anti-tax advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform and who had a different view on the politics behind the shutdown, posted a picture of the email on Twitter with the message: "Can't do my homework for class; govt. shutdown. So my prof. blames Republicans in an e-mail blast…"

The fallout was swift and harrowing for Slocum and the university, much as it was for Guth and KU.

Among the similarities between the Slocum and Guth situations: Both stories were picked up by the college media site Campus Reform, which is affiliated with the Leadership Institute and other conservative outlets.

Guth, Slocum and administrators at their respective universities received vitriolic messages from strangers outside the university. Guth even received death threats.

Administrators in both cases publicly denounced the faculty members under fire.

Some called for Slocum to be fired. Same holds for Guth, and some state legislators joined in the demands for his job. Both universities saw legislative funding come under threat.

And, of course, both stories spread like wildfire through social media.

The speed with which news travels through social media strikes fear into the heart of university officials. In response, some universities and state boards are looking to somehow contain social media wildfires, as another Chronicle article points out.

That list includes Kansas. If it weren't for David Guth's tweet, the Kansas Board of Regents would probably never have introduced the controversial new social media policy giving university CEOs the power to fire employees over "improper" social media use.

That policy has gained at least as much notoriety as Guth's tweet. It sparked dismay and outrage among Kansas university employees and has brought condemnation from national groups and newspaper editorial pages around the state. Critics say the policy restricts academic freedom and free speech.

(Shortly after passing the policy, the regents said they would take a second look at it in response to the outcry. The work group tasked by the regents with reviewing it recently approved a rewrite that would take an advisory, rather than disciplinary, role. Campuses have largely lauded the proposed draft so far.)

The regents, as KU Provost Jeff Vitter has said, were trying to protect universities from political backlashes and funding risks such as that which followed the Guth imbroglio. In the process the regents found themselves at the center of a national debate over free speech in higher education.

Universities have evolved in part to be institutions of democratic instruction and the free debate of ideas. The invention of tenure was meant to shield university scholars from political reprisals by people who don't like their ideas or ways of expressing them.

It's understandable that taxpayers and tuition payers would want to limit classroom conversations to the assignment at hand, and to keep hot-button politics out of education. At the same time, universities are the places where many learn to think, talk and write critically about political, social, philosophical, scientific and commercial ideas for the first time.

Trying to keep politics out of the classroom, or social media, for education's sake might ultimately be self-defeating.

Reply 1 comment from Betty Bartholomew

KU students call on regents to suspend social media policy

Kansas University students have joined in the call for the Kansas Board of Regents to suspend a social media policy passed in December.

The KU Student Senate passed a resolution this week urging the regents to ax the policy while a regents-created work group reviews it and recommends revisions.

Garrett Farlow, a KU freshman in journalism, was one of the primary authors of the resolution, which states the social media policy "inhibits free speech of faculty and staff, depriving them of the academic and personal freedoms necessary to effectively educate students."

Farlow said he was concerned that the policy could inhibit faculty members who engage with peers and students on social media. "Although the policy is directly targeted at faculty and professors, it obviously affects students," he said.

The policy allows university heads to suspend and fire employees for social media posts that conflict with the best interest of the university or its ability to perform services, among other violations.

After passing the policy unanimously in December, the regents announced they would review it in response to widespread criticism that it was too broad and could restrain free speech.

The regents established a work group of faculty and staff from state universities to study the policy and make recommendations to the board by April. But faculty and staff groups have repeatedly asked the regents to suspend the policy until the work group makes its findings. Yesterday the regents pushed back against those calls.

Farlow said the issue hasn't gotten much attention from students largely because they don't follow media accounts as closely as faculty and staff. But Farlow is trying to make it an issue with students, starting with last night's resolution.

"The more people that know about this, the more impact that we can have," he said. "The First Amendment is very near and dear to my heart."

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