Dear Kansas Board of Regents

by on 2013-12-19 in Duck- 19 Comments

Dear Kansas Board of Regents,

Greetings.  You probably don’t know me but I’ve been a long-time user of your services.  I started my college career taking dual-credit courses at Pratt Community College in 1996, I attended the Kansas Board of Regents Honors Academy in 1998, and I am a graduate of one of your fine institutions, Kansas State University.  After getting my PhD, I even returned to Kansas State for 3 years as an assistant professor.

I “did good” as a professor at Kansas State – I published a lot, won a big teaching award, and didn’t make waves.  Like a lot of people in my generation, I also had a Facebook account.  I proudly displayed my work information on the account – I wanted others to know that I was a K-State grad and professor.  I left K-State in the Fall of 2012 for a better position at a better department and university.  It was a good decision.  There really wasn’t anything wrong with K-State and I still keep in close contact with many of my friends and former colleagues in Kansas.

Last night – on Facebook in fact –  I learned that you just adopted a new social media policy.  I read the policy with great interest.  In many regards, I think it is completely reasonable.  Of course I know not to incite violence in my Facebook or blogging activities; I also know not to post confidential information about students.  It’s your other point that worries me: improper use of social media includes things that are “contrary to the best interest of the university.”  Wow.  Talk about scary.  As Philip Nel – a K-State English professor I actually took a class with in 2000 – wrote in his blog (also cited in the Inside Higher Ed article):

 “As faculty grade their last student papers and exams before leaving town for the Christmas holidays, the Kansas Board of Regents quietly — and unanimously — voted to revoke their academic freedom and basic right to freedom of speech.”

I didn’t start blogging until after I left K-State.  However, if this policy had been in place while I was at K-State or was in place at my current university, I don’t know if I would have.  I also don’t think I would risk posting anything on Facebook or Twitter as a professor at one of your colleges or universities.  “Best interest of the university?”  What does that mean?  I one time posted something on Facebook about how my office at K-State was never heated properly.  Is that in the “best interest of the university?”  Probably not – we wouldn’t want outsiders to know that facilities are sub-par.

“Best interest of the university” could also mean I should never post about my current research.  Let me give you an example – I study human rights and am working on a paper with Victor Asal and Udi Sommer on how advocacy concerning LGBT rights influences the rights for sexual minorities to marry.  This right is not in line with the Governor of the State of Kansas, Sam Brownback, who actually appoints your board.  So, if I write a post about my current research, would that be against the “best interest of the university”?  We all know that Brownback’s staff really likes to search for anti-Brownback tweets (even of high schoolers)– would a blog at the Duck on that subject get me in hot water if I taught in Kansas?  I sure hope not.

In short, I’m saddened by the potential misuse of your new policy.  I hope my former K-State colleagues also express their dismay.  However, if I was them, I’d be hesitant to express my dismay on any sort of social media.

Best regards,


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  • Lothar

    Actually those professors should be expressing their dismay in several class-action lawsuits, but otherwise, word.

  • Charli Carpenter

    Well as a non-Kansas professor I am tweeting and sharing this post immediately.

  • cultcrit
  • Michelle

    Sad! Just sad! Unlike the other 100 things that the lovely state of Kansas could be working on, in the hopes that education would be better served, we worry about social media. :(

  • j.ottopohl

    Unfortunate, but it certainly should not have been unexpected given the fall out from Guth’s statements regarding the sons and daughters of NRA members.

  • Charles Lipson

    Well put. Prohibiting speech that violates the vague prohibition (“not in the best interests of the university”) is almost certainly unconstitutional. It is definitely unacceptable. What explains it? It’s just bureaucracies doing what they do best: trying to control their environment and restrict information.

  • brucej

    As many on the left point out when righties whinge about being taken to task for what they say, this is not a 1st amendment issue: the professor involved was not arrested for his Facebook post. He was fired by his employer.

    He almost certainly has good grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit, especially as the policy was not in place when he was fired.

    It IS a policy that pretty much eviscerates “academic freedom” in Kansas, yet another thing that’s wrong with Kansas.

  • brucej

    The first amendment does not apply here, so there is no issue of constitutionality.

  • Charles Lipson

    Makes sense. It is a civil issue related to unlawful termination for vague reasons.

  • RobNYNY1957

    This is a state university, so there is a constitutional issue.

  • civilact

    Academic freedom is a first amendment issue. See Griswold v. Connecticut.

  • FrancisChalk

    The leftist KU journalism professor, Guth, tweeted that he wished other peoples’ children would be killed. If you advocate for children to be
    murdered, you should, at minimum, lose your job and possibly go to jail. Guth has absolutely no standing to succeed in a wrongful termination suit. His is not a case of freedom of speech. There are countless prohibitions to “freedom of speech” in America. Advocating violent crime it NOT protected speech under the constitution or in any state. Leftists, especially academics, constantly amaze me with their myopic hypocrisy. So if you call someone a racial slur (hate speech) you can be arrested, but if you advocate for their children to be murdered, you should receive no sanction—not even losing your job???

  • Matthias Fusco

    Thankfully you don’t get to make the rules. Professor David Guth’s twitter comment about the Navy Yard shooting was personally offensive to me, but we should all passionately fight for his right to say it. If you let government officials punish unpopular speech, who is to say you won’t be next. The way to combat unpopular or controversial words is with more free speech; not with laws and policies aimed at intimidating people. The Supreme Court has upheld the right to free speech for employees speaking on matters of public concern (Pickering v. Board of Education, 1969).

  • wbonesteel

    Let ‘em talk. I wanna know what they *really* think about life, the universe and nuthin’ at all.
    That way, I can identify the nutcases – and avoid them in real life.

  • sam57

    Advocating violence against children may or may not be a 1st amendment issue, but it certainly can be used as a reason to bring termination to an employee of an institution that advocates free speech: there can be a difference between exercising rights and the right to tenure in a university: do we want people advocating the genocide of Jews or Arabs in our schools?. That said the position of the Board is ridiculous: it is so broad and universal as to have a stifling effect and should be unconstitutional for a state supported enterprise.
    The issue is one of degree: no one can scream Fire! in a theatre, but political speech should be allowed. We need some defined nuance here: I am pretty sure that the University has a code in place about violence against people or incitement to violence by direct action or through what used to be termed “fighting words” i.e. a statement that in effect is an assault. If this had been cited, the Governor’s might have had a case.
    It wasn’t, however, and they don’t.

  • SDN

    Any govt money = 1st Amendment issue.

  • teapartydoc

    Professors say the darnedest things.

  • evil is evil

    Freedom of speech? Freedom of intellectual honesty?

    You people got a lot worse freaking problems than that.

    You might do a little research on who owns Kansas. This is not some deep dark secret. It is quite well known on the blogs that your government is corrupt.

    Start with the Koch Bros. Then go to their little crooked laws outfit called ALEC. Then check how many of the state “elected” representatives belong to ALEC.

    Then check State Policy Network.

    These are your known owned politicians:
    Karen Brownlee R, Kansas Senate[54]
    Terry Bruce R, Kansas Senate[27][76]
    Rob Bruchman R, Kansas House of Representatives[24][76]
    Steve Brunk R, Kansas House of Representatives[77]
    Terry Calloway R, Kansas House of Representatives[76]
    Richard Carlson R, Kansas House of Representatives[53]
    Pete DeGraff R, Kansas House of Representatives[77]
    John Faber R, formerly Kansas House of Representatives[77]
    Mario Goico R, Kansas House of Representatives[27]
    TerriLois Gregory R, Kansas House of Representatives[76]
    Amanda Grosserode R, Kansas House of Representatives[76]
    Gary Hayzlett R, Kansas House of Representatives[27]
    Carl Holmes R, Kansas House of Representatives[77]
    Mitch Holmes R, Kansas House of Representatives[53]
    Steve Huebert R, Kansas House of Representatives[53]
    Lynn Jenkins R, U.S. House of Representatives[52]
    Richard Kelsey R, Kansas Senate[53]
    Lance Kinzer R, Kansas House of Representatives[24][76][77]
    Marvin Kleeb R, Kansas House of Representatives[76][77][77]
    Forrest Knox R, Kansas House of Representatives[53][76][77]
    Garret Love R, Kansas Senate[76]
    Julia Lynn R, Kansas Senate[76]
    Peggy Mast R, Assistant Majority Leader Kansas House of Representatives[53]
    Ty Masterson R, Kansas Senate[77]
    Kelly Meigs R, Kansas House of Representatives[76]
    Raymond Merrick R, Kansas Senate[5][76]
    Susan Mosier R, Kansas House of Representatives[76]
    Don Myers R, Kansas House of Representatives[53]
    Ralph Ostmeyer R, Kansas Senate[53][76]
    Joe Patton R, Kansas House of Representatives[24][53]
    Mike Petersen R, Kansas Senate[21]
    Larry Powell R, Kansas House of Representatives[76]
    Dennis Pyle R, Kansas Senate[54]
    Marc Rhodes R, Kansas House of Representatives[53][54][77]
    John Rubin R, Kansas House of Representatives[27][76]
    Ronald Ryckman R, Kansas House of Representatives[76]
    Scott Schwab R, Kansas House of Representatives[53][54][76]
    Sharon Schwartz R, Kansas House of Representatives[54]
    Chris Steineger R, Kansas Senate[21][76]

    On the national level, these are your elected scum:

    Jerry Moran R, United States Senate[56]
    Susan Wagle R, Kansas Senate[77]

    Kevin Yoder R, U.S. House of Representatives[52]

  • FrancisChalk

    The definition of a hate crime varies by state but can
    include “verbal abuse, insults, graffiti and hate mail.” It’s not a matter of me “making the rules”; it’s already a “rule” rammed through legislatures by liberals/leftists—people like Guth, and you most likely. People like me are totally against hate crime laws, but if the left insists on having them on the books then I’m in favor of them being enforced, particularly when people of the Left violate them. Thus, my point is: for his tweets advocating the death of other people’s children, he was very appropriately fired, and in some states could have likely been prosecuted for a hate crime. And if you think the First Amendment means you can just say whatever you want without sanction, the next time you get involved in a discussion on a “matter of public concern” at work–like immigration reform—start mouthing racial slurs and see how long you keep your job. Heck, if you work on a college campus, you would not only be immediately fired, but most likely arrested as well.