The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

January 3, 2014

Our View: Concerns heard

— The groundswell of protests ranging from professors to the press appears to have been heard. A policy that would have restricted the First Amendment rights of employees of Kansas state universities and community colleges is getting another look.

On Tuesday, the Kansas Board of Regents announced it would work with university presidents and chancellors to form a work group on each campus to study the hotly debated policy.

On Dec. 18, the Kansas Board of Regents adopted a new social media policy that makes it an offense punishable by termination for faculty or staff to use social media in such a way that is “contrary to the best interests of the university.”

Also forbidden is anything that might impair efficiency, disrupt discipline or cause disharmony among co-workers.

In effect, it is a policy that is vague yet at the same time intimidating. For example, professors might wonder if they could tweet out their disagreement over the use of taxpayer funds for a new university football field or auditorium. Could that get them fired if their opinion ran “contrary to the best interests of the university”? Essentially, this policy says: “Disagree at your own peril.”

Pittsburg State University will have a say in this statewide discussion of the policy.

Many have used their voices to point out what we think is a blatant mistake in the writing of this policy.

The Kansas Board of Regents says it will listen to the feedback from the work groups. We think if the regents are willing to do that, Kansas university employees will see an entirely different policy on what they can and can’t say on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media venues.

It will be up to the KBOR to make the final decision on this policy. We suspect if it doesn’t listen to those who are trying to protect First Amendment rights in Kansas, there will be court judges who will ultimately deliver the final decision.

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