Thursday, May 22, 2014

Life Under KBOR

If you’ve been following the news then you know that back in December KBOR approved a social media policy that gave the Executive Administrator of each institution authority to fire any faculty or staff member who used social media in a way that disrupted workplace harmony or implied disloyalty or impaired supervision or was in any way not in the best interests of the University as that individual defines it. Uproar ensued.

A Workgroup comprised of staff and faculty from all seven Regents institutions was charged with revising the policy; they came up with one that was short, affirming and definitely (or defiantly) not punitive and presented it to the Regents at the April meeting. You can find a link to the work group policy here.

Apparently, KBOR wasn’t too happy this new policy. Maybe it wasn’t sufficiently punitive? Anyway, KBOR revised their original policy by adopting some of the language of the Workgroup policy, notably that affirming academic freedom. Much to the disappointment of a lot of people, however, the revised KBOR policy retained the language about harmony, loyalty and discipline. You can read KBOR’s revised policy here.

Included on the agenda for the meeting last Wednesday was a vote on the slightly revised KBOR Social Media policy. To their credit, the Regents gave Emporia State University’s Sheryl Lidzy an opportunity to read—on behalf of the Kansas Council of Faculty Senate Presidents—a statement defending freedom of speech and requesting the Regents to abandon their pursuit of an overly broad and highly punitive policy and to instead adopt the Taskforce policy. You can find Lidzy’s statement here

Otherwise, the lead up to the vote was an extremely well-orchestrated and (to me) discredible affirmation of the respect KBOR has for faculty and for academic freedom, beginning with numerous statements by KBOR President Fred Logan and concluding with a summary of the revised policy that underscored a number of ways that it borrows language from the task force policy, as if that were in and off itself proof that KBOR does in fact respect faculty. The vote was, unsurprisingly, unanimous in favor of the KBOR revised policy.

So here’s where things stand: if Kirk Schulz or someone who has his ear, like my department head or dean or any one of the Regents, decides that this post somehow contrary to the best interests of the University or disrupts harmony, loyalty and discipline, then I can be fired from my tenured position, post-haste. Will that happen? I seriously doubt it. But the fact that it could happen . . . well, that’s cause for concern and not just for me or my family or KSU but for the entire state of Kansas.

Next: why I think this has happened.