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Faculty fears social media policy infringes on First Amendment rights to free speech ­ The Collegian
Ingram, Karen Sarita
University Wire [Carlsbad] 22 Jan 2014. Abstract (summary)
Because a larger number of faculty already utilize social media for personal and professional use, many chose to use their social media accounts and blogs to protest the policy.
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Publication: The Kansas State Collegian,
Kansas State University
, Manhattan KS.
When David Guth, professor in journalism from the
University of Kansas
, made an offensive tweet that got him suspended last year, the Kansas Board of Regents created a policy regarding the use of social media to provide guidelines for dealing with future incidents. But, the creation of the policy may have poured gasoline onto the fire instead of water. The policy grants the chief executive officer of a state university the authority to suspend or terminate any members of faculty or staff who make "improper use of social media
," such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more. While several K­State faculty agree with parts of the policy, which define "improper use" as inciting violence or disclosing confidential student information, there are other parts of the policy that faculty believe infringe on their First Amendment rights to free speech and could also endanger tenure. Statements made that are "contrary to the best interest of the university" or "impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co­workers" are also part of the policy. William Hsu, associate professor of computing and information sciences, said that many companies, such as
, have policies that protect employees from divulging secrets, but expressing personal and political opinions should be protected by the First Amendment. "The policy itself is very broad and very vague about what constitutes damage to the university and when we're representing the university," he said. "This is a threat to that individual freedom of expression, in my opinion." Reaction to the policy has been overwhelmingly negative. Faculty from all areas of study and all different political ideologies oppose the new policy and expressed dissatisfaction with its creation. "Faculty, staff and administration of Kansas universities may not see eye­to­eye on all things, but we're united in our opposition to this Draconian policy," said Philip Nel, university distinguished professor of English, in an email interview. Faculty Senate President Julia Keen, associate professor of architectural engineering and construction science, said she has received "a tremendous number" of emails from K­State faculty and staff, not one of which was in support of, or even neutral to, the policy. "It was especially disappointing that the KBoR developed this policy with no input from the universities they represent," Keen said in an email interview. Because a larger number of faculty already utilize social media for personal and professional use, many chose to use their social media accounts and blogs to protest the policy. Amy Lara, associate professor of philosophy, posted on her Facebook on
Jan. 8, "In protest of my employer's new policy on social media use by faculty, I am posting something controversial and sincere on my Facebook page every day until the policy is repealed." Her subsequent posts have tackled subjects ranging from feminism to drug use. Lara also said that she was not worried about getting fired for her posts.
"I want to make a point that the thing I'm doing that could get me fired isn't harmful," she said. "We have to take risks if we think something's wrong." On Jan. 12, an open letter to the Board of Regents calling for the suspension of the social media policy was printed in several area newspapers and posted on Nel's personal blog. Nel, who drafted the

letter with Elizabeth Dodd, university distinguished professor of English, said it had been signed by more