LAWRENCE, Kansas – Freedom of speech. It’s in the First Amendment. Some say it’s been dampened in Kansas.
The Kansas Board of Regents recently announced that speech by University employees that is a detriment to the functions of the University, could be cause for discipline.
The issue stems from a controversy initiated by David Guth, a professor at KU who has been kicked out of the classroom by the University of Kansas. Guth tweeted a very controversial tweet last year about the Navy Yard shootings. Some took offense.
Now, some professors say the Kansas Board of Regents policy could have a chill on free speech. In fact, some say they wonder if they could be disciplined or even fired for talking to the media.
“Even having this conversation, if could come within, potentially, the Board of Regents policy,” says KU Law Professor Raj Bhala. “Of course, I am speaking strictly to you on a personal level now. I am not acting as a representative of the university in this conversation.”
Some attorneys in Kansas say this case, if it progresses, could land at the Supreme Court.
“The United States Supreme Court has long emphasized academic freedom under the first amendment,” says Wichita attorney Dan Monnat. “The issue involved in the Board of Regents policy here, brings up exactly the question that has not been decided by the United States Supreme Court. That is, whether the rule restricting speech of public employees applies in academic freedom and scholarship.”
The University of Kansas did respond to KSN requests for comment on the Board of Regents policy.
“The free exchange of ideas is vital to the success of all universities,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “We’re working with our faculty, staff and the Board of Regents to ensure the Board’s policy respects and preserves that freedom.”