KU governance leaders call for suspension of social media policy

Governance bodies at state universities have begun calling for the Kansas Board of Regents to suspend a social media policy it approved last month.

Today the University Senate executive committee at Kansas University endorsed a resolution stating its opposition to the policy and urged the regents to suspend it while under review by a newly created work group.

The resolution will go before the full University Senate at its first meeting on Feb. 6.

The language was crafted by the Council of Faculty Senate Presidents, which includes representatives from all regents universities, who asked the regents to suspend the policy earlier in the month. Christopher Steadham, president of the KU Faculty Senate, said the council’s goal with this resolution was to show broad consensus among the governance bodies of Kansas universities.

So far it has been passed by the Pittsburg State University faculty senate, the Wichita State University faculty senate and the KU Medical Center senates representing nursing and medical faculty, Steadham said. Although it is not in the regents system, the Johnson County Community College faculty senate also endorsed the resolution.

At today’s meeting the executive committee also had a chance to meet with members of the work group created by the regents to review the controversial policy and recommend revisions.

Chuck Epp, co-chair of the work group and a KU professor in the School of Public Affairs, fielded a slew of questions from the committee, including questions about how much power the work group has over the ultimate policy.

“It’s my understanding (the regents) will revise the policy as they see fit in light of our recommendations,” Epp said. “We have no final authority over the policy whatsoever.”

Epp said the group planned on releasing its recommendations to the public for comment before submitting them formally to the regents.

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.

The regents passed the policy unanimously in December. In response to widespread criticism that it was too broad and could restrain free speech, the regents announced they would review the policy and established a work group of university personnel to make recommendations by April.

The regents work group met for the first time on Jan. 24. Its members decided at that meeting to start from scratch and craft their own policy.

The regents passed the policy after KU journalism professor David Guth’s anti-NRA tweet sparked a national uproar as well as calls from some state lawmakers for Guth to be fired.