Attorney sound bite: David Hacker | Joel Oster
— Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter
to the Kansas Board of Regents Monday to explain the unconstitutionality of its new policy that restricts the free speech of university professors when they post to social media sites.
“Universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, but this policy aims to shut that down for Kansas professors when they engage in social media,” said Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “The First Amendment is designed specifically to protect exactly this kind of public expression. Though many of us may not condone the views of some professors, the government has no business seeking to stifle opinions with which it may not agree.”
On Dec. 18, the board amended its social media policy to prohibit “improper use of social media.” The policy defines the prohibition as making a communication that “is contrary to the best interests of the university” and “otherwise adversely affects the university’s ability to efficiently provide services.”
A professor who posted a controversial message on Twitter prompted the new policy change, but as the Alliance Defending Freedom letter explains, “the Board should not overreact to that situation by censoring the speech of all faculty and staff in the university system.”
“The social media policy is so undefined that faculty and staff, let alone administrators charged with its enforcement, will differ as to what constitutes a violation. This chills free speech,” the letter adds. “We are aware that the Board is reconsidering its decision to implement this new social media policy and we urge you to consider the constitutional ramifications as you undertake that project. As currently written, however, the policy violates the First Amendment rights of faculty and if left in place will subject the Board to legal liability.”
“The board certainly does not have to share the opinion of all of its professors, but it can’t unilaterally ban all speech that ‘is contrary to the best interests of the university,’” said Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. “We hope the information in our letter will assist the board of regents in making the right decision--and that is to rescind its problematic policy.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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