Thursday, September 26, 2013

Free Speech and Your Employer on Twitter

There has been a flurry of news coverage over the post that David W. Guth, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, posted on twitter the same day as the tragic mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Prof. Guth tweeted, "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."

The tweet set off a maelstorm on social media, and on Thursday of that week the University of Kanasas released written statements condemning the professor's message. That Friday, the university placed him on leave. The professor released a statement to the Associated Press that same day, agreeing with the University's action in light of the threats that he and others had received.

Yesterday, Chronicle blogger Robert Jenkins released an interesting op-ed piece called "Speech in the Balance" which argues that even though many of us might disagree with what was said (for a multitude of reasons), he certainly did have a right to speak his mind without penalty.

What do you think about this news issue? Does Professor Guth have the right to make these kinds of statements on Twitter (or other social media platforms) with impunity?

Does the University of Kansas have the right to put Prof. Guth on paid leave because of his statement? Does their statement that it was done, "to prevent disruptions to the learning environment for students, the school of journalism, and the university," seem adequate?

Should employers have the right to discipline employees for what they post on social media? Does a public university, who has a tradition of academic freedom, also have this right?

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