Cyber policy — Kansas regents missed message on social media

4/28/2014

The knee-jerk reaction recently of Kansas Board of Regents members to an alternative policy on social media prepared by a work group made up of faculty and staff representatives from all six regents universities was disappointing.

The knee-jerk reaction recently of Kansas Board of Regents members to an alternative policy on social media prepared by a work group made up of faculty and staff representatives from all six regents universities was disappointing.

Although the members of the Regents' Governance Committee were receptive to adding some language that was included in the work group's proposal, they flatly refused to reconsider the disciplinary aspects of the policy which are most bothersome to university faculty members concerned about protecting academic freedom. ...

In their report, the members of the faculty and staff work group did what the regents thought was unnecessary before approving their social media policy earlier this year: They looked at social media policy at public and private universities across the country to see what they could learn. What they found is that no other school applied a disciplinary standard like that imposed in Kansas except for instances that involved official university communications such as official websites or Twitter accounts.

The work group's proposed policy achieves basically the same goals as the regents' original policy without the provision authorizing university CEOs to dismiss any faculty or staff member who misuses social media. The alternative policy would act as a guide for individual universities to establish their own social media policies. ...

The message that the regents might have taken from the work group is that the policy they passed really isn't necessary, that adequate disciplinary processes already exist without the additional hammer the regents wanted to impose specifically to social media. ...

The regents' original policy might be workable in a private business setting or certain government agencies, but it is not appropriate for public universities. A policy that threatens dismissal over vaguely defined misuse of social media has the effect of shutting down the core mission of a university to raise and discuss ideas and issues that are controversial and sometimes even offensive.

That is what the work group — whose members work on state university campuses every day — was trying to tell the regents, but apparently they are unwilling to hear that message.

-- The Lawrence Journal-World

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