Tag: free speech

The Freedom to Speak Up As Academics: The Right to Make An “Ass” of Myself Personally

On Thursday, I became part of a growing group of academics that has had a letter like this written about them:

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Dear Kansas Board of Regents, Part Deux

Dear Kansas Board of Regents,

Greetings.  I don’t know if you received my first open-letter to you in December.  My parents have pretty slow Internet in central Kansas so maybe the page is still loading.  Hopefully, you’ll read the letter once you get it.

In December, I wrote about your proposed social media policy and how it really would scare me if I was still faculty at Kansas State University or any of your other Kansas institutions.  Of course, I know not to post things that would go against existing federal laws (FERPA) and know not to incite violence in my social media posts.  However, like most young academics, I use Twitter and Facebook, mainly just as ways to promote the research which universities hire me to do.[1]  When I wrote you in December, what really bothered me was the little bit of your policy about not putting anything on social media that was “contrary to the best interests of the employer.”  Sadly, I learned today that this little gem was left in the revised policy, just surrounded by flowery but utterly meaningless words about your support of “academic freedom.”

This is a scary policy in a very scary time.  Just yesterday, a tenured professor at the University of Saskatchewan was “fired, stripped of his tenure, had his retirement benefits revoked and was escorted off campus by security” for a letter he had sent criticizing his university (Alamenciak May 14, 2014).  Regardless of your cheery faces during the Regents meeting, my former colleagues should be scared. Proposed restrictions on the free speech rights of academics seem to be coming from all sides.

In my opinion, Kansas has a real problem attracting and keeping top academics.  As Kirk McClure of KU’s Department of Urban Planning recently was quoted, this policy will hurt your universities even more:

“The social media policy makes it even harder to sell KU to top faculty candidates. A new faculty member can be disciplined, even terminated for a tweet” (quote in Rothschild, LJWorld.com May 6, 2014). 

I’m hoping – really hoping – that my former students at Kansas State University listened hard when we discussed nonviolent dissent and advocacy in the courses I taught for you.  I’m hoping my former colleagues, mentors, and friends continue their fight. I’m hoping all of them are far less disillusioned with Kansas than I am and are willing to stay in your state.[2]  I’m hoping they give you hell.  And, I’m hoping they tweet about it every step of the way.

Best,

Dr. Amanda Hilley Murdie

Kansas State University ’03 BS and ‘05 MA

Kansas State University Assistant Professor, 2009-2012

 

[1] That and, of course, to post pictures of my kids and various cute animal pictures.  Is that ok?  Having a life outside of academia could go against the best interest of my employer.

[2] Although, given the recent downgrade by Moody, I’m not sure where any of my former students will work in your state.

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