Regents’ draft policy well done

Elizabeth Dodd and Philip Nel

By A Contributor

Dear Board of Regents:

We write to offer strong support for the joint working group’s revision of the Kansas Board of Regents’ social media policy. The revised policy is laudable in several ways.  

First, it recognizes the unique and fundamental duty of public universities to contribute to the discovery, creation and testing of new knowledge, as well as the educational necessity to en-courage critical thinking and ensure breadth of knowledge for students.

These are primary responsi-bilities of public universities; they differentiate college class-rooms, university lecture halls and campus libraries from nearly every other sort of work environment. Any policy regard-ing the sharing of thoughts and language in an academic en-vironment must support this critical role for university employees.

Second, the process of its development models scholarly inquiry. The group formed for this task includes individuals (faculty and staff) with multiple areas of expertise and experi-ence. They analyzed existing policies across the Regents’ campuses, searched nationally for parallel policies, debated the goals and language among themselves and released their draft for further scrutiny and debate within the academic communities where it will be implemented. This process ex-emplifies the very practices of scholarship that are so funda-mental to academic work.

Third, it offers true guidance for the proper development of campus-specific policies, relying on the specific procedures already mandated for policy development on the individual Regents campuses, each of which has an individual mission in which academic freedom and discourse must function. This draft is neither chilling nor punitive; to the contrary, it encourages thoughtful, informed examination of how the new technologies of social media complicate as well as facilitate public discourse.

“The proper role of public intellectuals is to question accepted dogmas, conceive of new methods of analysis, and expand the terms of public debate,” John Cassidy observes in a recent review of a Harvard University Press publication (“Forces of Divergence,” The New Yorker, March 31, 2014: 73).  

As University Distinguished Professors at Kansas State University and the University of Kansas Medical Center, and Distinguished Professors at the University of Kansas and Wich-ita State University, we find this draft meets, supports, and ex-emplifies the role of scholarship for public intellectuals in a democracy.

We endorse it with enthusi-asm.

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