Social Media Work Group to present recommended revisions to controversial policy

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Today, the Social Media Work Group for the Kansas Board of Regents will submit recommended changes to the regents’ social media policy. The policy caused concern among university employees last fall.

“Our goal was to create something that was not punitive in language, but rather advisory in language,” said Julia Keen, faculty senate president and one of K-State’s two representatives on the social media work group. “The work group was tasked with reviewing the policy that is currently on the books, while addressing the concerns that have been expressed by many.”

To facilitate this, recommended changes include moving the social media policy from the “Suspensions, Terminations and Dismissals” section of the Board Policy Manual to the section entitled “Other,” and under its own subsection, entitled “Social Media.” These structural changes are intended to provide more clarification and to remove negative connotation associated with the policy’s current placement within the manual.

Keen said there are already policies in place at most of the universities that accomplish a lot of what is governed by the new social media policy. For example, professors cannot divulge information about students over social media due to other standing university policies. However, Keen said the regents felt a redundant policy was necessary.

“Social media just has a platform that is much more likely to go viral more quickly,” said Keen, who is also an associate professor of architectural engineering and construction sciences.

Initial concerns about the policy instituted in fall centered around concern about First Amendment freedoms of professors when using social media. Keen said there were also concerns about academic freedom of professors as well.

“I think the new policy protects those rights and is in a context that is much more proactive in nature,” Keen said.

Today’s presentation will be to a governance group, who will then decide how to proceed with the recommended changes to the policy. She said the governance group could take the proposed changes and implement them exactly as presented, or they could pick and choose which recommended changes they want to use and not use.

“It’s completely up to the governance group as to how it goes forward from here,” Keen said.

While the regents appointed the group to recommend revisions to the policy, Keen said their power was limited only to recommending changes, not recommending the abolishment of the social media policy all together.

“They said, ‘There’s going to be a social media policy, what do you think that speech should look like,'” Keen said.

Once the presentation is made, Keen said she expects questions from the governance board about the recommended revisions because the governance board has had time to look over the recommendations. The work group was given a deadline of April 16 to complete their recommendations, but finished them by April 8, according to the memorandum on the social media work group’s webpage.

Keen said she doesn’t expect a decision today. If the governance group chooses to change the policy in any way, the regents will have to vote on the changes. Keen said the policy is not on the regents’ April agenda, so any changes to the policy could take until June or later.

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Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.