Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fireable Tweets. From Inside Higher Ed. Written by My Pretend Academic Boyfriend Scotty J.

by Scott Jaschik

In September, the University of Kansas suspended David W. Guth, a tenured journalism professor, after he responded to the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard with this comment on Twitter: "#NavyYardShooting The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you."

Many pro-gun politicians called for Guth to be fired, but he kept his job and the suspension has since been lifted. Officials also learned that the state's public universities didn't have a policy that explicitly permitted the dismissal of faculty members and other employees over their use of social media.

On Wednesday, the Kansas Board of Regents changed that, and adopted rules under which faculty members and other employees can be fired for "improper use of social media" -- and some parts of the policy are already drawing harsh criticism from faculty leaders.



  1. As long as one's social media comments are not meant to speak on behalf of the university/college, they are protected. Period. Thus, as a free citizen, I can say 'fuck off' in a philosophical sense to any and all amorphous administrations that would see fit to find any social media communication of "fuck off" to be harmful to the collegiality of any/all institutions of higher learning.

  2. I can't help comparing/contrasting this with the case of the Duck Doofus guy getting canned for his comments about homosexuality. I don't for one moment defend the comments, but I'm worried about the interpretation of "free speech" on offer in some quarters that suggests free speech only protects one from government action, but not from the "consequences" which can include losing one's job.

    There are differences between the two cases of course. Maybe Duck Doofus' comments were hate speech, while the prof's comments were political commentary. Arguably a university is a different kind of employer than A&E. But even if so, these are nuances typically lost in our sound-byte society. And the threat of unemployment is a powerful silencer in any context. I wouldn't want to defend Walmart employees being fired for discussing the pros and cons of unionization.

    Besides, I think the Duck Doofuses should be cancelled for being doofuses. I wonder if saying that would "impair harmony among co-workers" who like the show.