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Regents Reject Big Changes To Controversial Social Media Policy

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The Kansas Board of Regents has decided to add a free speech provision to a controversial social media policy, a decision criticized as “window dressing.”

Regent Chairman Fred Logan, who along with the rest of the board has come under fire nationally from professors and First Amendment advocates, said during a board meeting this week that he does not believe the policy restricts staff and faculty from openly expressing their opinions, the Lawrence Journal-Worldreports.

The regents' policy has been misunderstood, said Logan, who called concerns about staff being fired as "ludicrous." The comments came during a Wednesday meeting.

The policy was approved in December in response to a Twitter post by a University of Kansas journalism professor, who said the NRA was responsible for the deadly shootings in September at the Navy Yard in Washington.

Professor David Guth later apologized, but was placed on administrative leave. He is currently on a semester sabbatical in western Kansas, but still speaks out on his blog.

The policy drew fire because it was so broad, barring “improper” use of social media, including a prohibition on anything that would be “contrary to the best interest of the university.” The plan also banned directly inciting violence, disclosing confidential student information, other protected data and confidential research data.

Reacting to the backlash, the board created a working group, but dismissed the group’s proposed changes this week. Charles Epp, a KU professor and co-chairman of the group, said officials must be mindful of protecting free speech, especially in light of often controversial topics covered on college campuses.

“I don’t agree this restricts expression,” Logan said.

Logan suggested adding the working group's language emphasizing First Amendment protections and academic freedom, the newspaper reported, including a 1940 American Association of University Professors policy saying teachers "should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations."

Logan's proposed changes were criticized by Max McCoy, an Emporia State University journalism professor, as “window dressing.”

The next draft of the policy is expected to be reviewed by the regents next month.

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