Regents OK with some of panel’s ideas
Ferry sinking shocks Pitt State Korean community
| Marcus Clem editor in chief |
The Kansas Board of Regents’ proposed redo of a controversial social-media policy is being met with a lukewarm response from faculty and members of a work group that reviewed the policy.
The regents’ governance committee has given preliminary support for new language that will keep the policy focused on university chief executives’ disciplinary power while seeking to affirm free speech and academic freedom protections.
Mark Peterson, assistant professor of political science, says he’s taking the new language with a grain of salt.
He takes particular issue with one part of the social media policy that restricts speech against “the best interest of the university.”
“This whole thing makes Kansas look bad,” he said. “You know, what I just said could be interpreted as harmful to the university’s ‘best interests.’ And I don’t give a damn.”
Debate on the policy flared up again on April 8 when the work group, composed of 13 faculty and university employees from the six universities of the regents’ jurisdiction, asked the regents to essentially redo the entire policy.
That recommendation emphasized that the policy, created in October 2013 after a University of Kansas professor was suspended for aggressive criticism of the National Rifle Association, is too broad.
Professors may worry that they’ll be fired for exercising their academic freedom in the classroom and elsewhere, the workgroup said, and this harms the free exchange of ideas that is critical to higher education.
Controversy is part of day-to-day affairs at a university, Peterson says.
“You know, some state legislator might say that teaching the theory of evolution isn’t in the university’s best interest. Are we going to fire people for that?” he asked.
Dacia Clark, one of Pittsburg State’s two representatives on the work group and senior administrative specialist for alumni and constituent relations, says that when the work group’s members presented their case to the regents, the response was a mixed bag.
“We’re going to get a chance to look at the final product,” she said on the ultimate revised policy that the Regents are expected to adopt in the near future, “but we won’t have another say.”
Clark says she’s happy with the respect the regents showed for the work group and their apparent willingness to change, and that she believes the situation could be much worse. However, she says, there are still key issues to address.
“I guess I have to be somewhat thankful that they adopted some of our language,” she said, “but I was disheartened that they maintained a disciplinary policy and did not adopt an advisory policy.”
Clark and Max McCoy, assistant professor journalism at Emporia State University, one of her workgroup colleagues, say that the regents raised complaints that the work group had not followed its mandate by saying broad reform is needed.
“I did look back at the charge to see what we were supposed to do,” Clark said. “It said, ‘Review the policy,’ which is what we did.”
McCoy takes more aggressive issue with the idea that the workgroup stepped out of bounds, saying he and three of his colleagues on the group hold that the entire impetus behind the policy was invalid.
“I felt that members of the work group were disrespected,” he said. “It was demeaning to be told that we would essentially have got a failing grade for missing the mark. The policy raised such serious constitutional questions that we could just not rubber-stamp it.”
“Everything in South Korea has been stopped,” said Seunghyung Lee, senior in plastics engineering technology. “All news, all discussion, everything is about this tragedy.”
Lee says that the Pitt State Korean Student Association, of which he is president, is planning a yell0w-ribbon campaign in memory of the victims. The KSA is also asking members of the Pitt State community to offer what support they can.
“It is really far away from here to there, so I can’t ask for material help,” said Sandra Kim, senior in sociology. “I would ask that they support us emotionally. That’s all that we can ask for.”
For these students, there remains central question: How can this be allowed to happen?
“I heard the problem was, the workers in the ferry didn’t know the proper way to react,” Jeon said. “They didn’t even know they had to contact the nearest coast guard station. Instead, they contacted one much more distant and that caused the rescue to take a lot more time.
“It’s really bad for us. People keep saying, ‘I hate my country,’ or ‘I’m sick of my bad and corrupt government.’ We have to figure out what the problem was before we talk about solutions.”