Thursday, December 19, 2013

Academic freedom isn't in Kansas anymore

This story started floating here overnight about the Kansas Board of Regents new policy about social media. The link is from the WaPo blog The Monkey Cage and it's worth reading.

Here's the key passage (emphasis added):
The chief executive officer of a state university has the authority to suspend, dismiss or terminate from employment any faculty or staff member who makes improper use of social media. “Social media” means any facility for online publication and commentary, including but not limited to blogs, wikis, and social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. “Improper use of social media” means making a communication through social media that:

i. directly incites violence or other immediate breach of the peace;

ii. when made pursuant to (i.e. in furtherance of) the employee’s official duties, is contrary to the best interests of the University;

iii. discloses without authority any confidential student information, protected health care information, personnel records, personal financial information, or confidential research data; or

iv. subject to the balancing analysis required by the following paragraph, impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers, has a detrimental impact on close working relationships for which personal loyalty and confidence are necessary, impedes the performance of the speaker’s official duties, interferes with the regular operation of the university, or otherwise adversely affects the university’s ability to efficiently provide services.

 In determining whether the employee’s communication constitutes an improper use of social media under paragraph (iv), the chief executive officer shall balance the interest of the university in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees against the employee’s right as a citizen to speak on matters of public concern, and may consider the employee’s position within the university and whether the employee used or publicized the university name, brands, website, official title or school / department / college or otherwise created the appearance of the communication being endorsed, approved or connected to the university in a manner that discredits the university. The chief executive officer may also consider whether the communication was made during the employee’s working hours or the communication was transmitted utilizing university systems or equipment. This policy on improper use of social media shall apply prospectively from its date of adoption by the Kansas Board of Regents. 
A lot of faculty I know see their proper role as specifically trying to push their institutions in ways that many administrators instantly interpret as 'contrary to the best interests' of those institutions. And it seems like interfering with the institution's 'ability to effectively provide services' surely includes working for higher wages and better conditions for workers, for instance.

Now, if they actually try to enforce this, there'll surely be long legal battles over it. But this is not a good moment.


Nicholas Dvoracek said...

On top of that, they've pissed off Google by not mentioning Google+ in their list of examples

Mr. Verb said...

Yeah, they'll pay for that!