More calls from KU to suspend social media policy

More Kansas University faculty and staff have called on the Kansas Board of Regents to suspend a controversial social media policy passed last December.

The University Senate approved a resolution, already adopted by governance bodies at other Kansas universities, urging the regents to nix the policy while a work group created by the regents reviews it.

The resolution, which states that the social media policy “infringes on the right to freedom of expression” and “conflicts with essential principles of academic freedom,” passed unanimously.

At the Senate meeting, KU Provost Jeffrey Vitter discussed creating a policy within the university that would allow the chancellor to appoint ad hoc groups of faculty and staff to review future potential breaches of the social media policy and make recommendations to the chancellor.

He said such a group would not preclude existing policies that protect staff and faculty and would “position the university to deal with things in a rational way” as well as in a timely fashion when situations arise.

Although he described the current policy as “unfortunate,” Vitter said he thought that the regents’ “intentions were good” when they originally passed the policy, and he expressed optimism that it could be revised in a way that meets standards of academic freedom.

“The intentions were to protect KU in particular and higher ed in general from the state legislature and potential funding cuts in the aftermath of the David Guth incident,” Vitter said.

He added that he thought it was important that a revised policy both protect academic freedom and “reassure the Legislature that we are accountable, we are aware both of our rights and responsibilities.”

As currently written, the social media 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.

The policy passed after KU journalism professor David Guth’s anti-NRA tweet sparked an uproar as well as calls from some state lawmakers for Guth to be fired, with some threatening to vote against KU’s funding.