A group of seven faculty members from the six public institutions governed by the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday released its draft of a new social media policy for the system, which if enacted would give employees of the institutions broad freedom to communicate online.
"In keeping with the Kansas Board of Regents’ commitment to the principles of academic freedom, the Board supports the responsible use of existing and emerging communications technologies, including social media, to serve the teaching, research, and public service missions of Kansas universities," the draft reads. "These guidelines shall recognize the rights and responsibilities of all employees, including faculty and staff, to speak on matters of public concern as private citizens, if they choose to do so."
The debate about social media and academic freedom has raged in the state in the last six months. Last September, the University of Kansas suspended journalism professor David W. Guth after he accused the National Rifle Association of causing the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard massacre. The board quickly adopted rules that made "improper use of social media" a fireable offense, then later said it would review those rules.
The policy closely adheres to the American Association of University Professors' 1940 Statement of Principles, which states faculty members "should be free from institutional censorship or discipline" but also mindful that they speak as individuals, not representatives of their institutions. Specifically, proposed definitions of improper social media include speech not protected by the First Amendment and speech that violates polices on professional misconduct and privacy law. Speech related to research and teaching should not be classified as improper use of social media, the draft states.
Commenters have until March 28 to submit their input, after which the working group will revise the draft.