The Kansas Board of Regents is not budging on its proposal to regulate social media use.
The board's revised proposal, released Monday, does contain much of the language found in a draft released earlier this month by a working group of faculty and staff representatives from the state’s six public four-year institutions. It quotes the American Association of University Professors’ 1940 Statement of Principles, and states that employees are free to use social media in contexts involving research, teaching or shared governance.
“When you compare the original policy with the workgroup’s recommended policy, you will see that they have had a major impact on the board’s work in this area," Fred Logan, who chairs the board, said in a statement. "The revised policy will contain the strongest statement made by the board anywhere in its policy manual in support of academic freedom and First Amendment expression.”
But along with the additions, the proposal retains the two paragraphs that set off the months-long process of reaching a compromise.
The definition of improper social media use is still left up to the discretion of university administrators, who are tasked with balancing “the interest of the university in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees against the employee’s right as a citizen to speak on matters of public concern.” Employees found to have improperly used social media could face sanctions such as “suspension, dismissal and termination,” the proposal reads.
“How do you put those two together -- the first half that looks pretty protective and the second half that looks pretty punitive and disciplinary?” said Charles R. Epp, the University of Kansas professor of public affairs and administration who co-chaired the workgroup. “Rather than reassuring faculty and staff, this mixed message is going to cause a lot of confusion and concern. I just don’t see it resolving the issue.”
The board will accept comments on the proposal until May 2, and will likely act on the policy during its meeting in mid-May.