The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.
In one mindless decision, the Kansas Regents have instantly adopted one of the worst campus speech codes ever seen in the entire country. This policy is clearly unconstitutional and breathtaking in how moronic it is.
First of all, a policy targeting only online communications makes absolutely no sense (according to the policy, it’s okay to make death threats and release confidential student records in a flyer posted everywhere on campus, as long as it’s not on a blog). So the entire policy needs to be removed. (Interestingly, the Regents policy is so stupid that it provides a funny little loophole. The policy only regulates employees from “making a communication through social media.” So, as long as someone else actually makes the communication by posting it online, faculty and staff cannot be punished, even if they wrote it and even if it’s on the faculty member’s blog.)
But what’s really troubling about the new policy is the incredibly vague content of it. One section bans any comments “contrary to the best interest of the university,” whatever that means. Another section allows punishment of faculty and staff if an online comment “impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers.” The new policy also prohibits anything that might have “a detrimental impact on close working relationships for which personal loyalty and confidence are necessary.” The policy even prohibits anything that “impedes the performance of the speaker’s official duties” (do they know in Kansas that you don’t “speak” into the internet?).
All of these regulations are a dire threat to freedom of speech, because they would allow faculty and staff to be punished for virtually any reason. As in the case of David Guth, faculty could be punished because the reaction to a comment harmed the university in some way, even if there was no wrong with what an employee said.
This deeply misguided attempt at repression needs to be overturned immediately. Even if it can never be legally enforced, it sends a message that academic freedom is not welcome in the state of Kansas.