The University of Kansas Faculty Senate has affirmed free speech rights for faculty after a professor was placed on leave following a tweet critical of the National Rifle Association.
The Faculty Senate said in a statement this week that the senate endorses the principles of First Amendment rights, academic freedom and due process and will work to ensure those principles are followed for all faculty.
The statement didn’t mention David Guth who was placed on leave after tweeting in the wake of the Washington Navy Yard shooting. Guth’s Twitter post said in part: “The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you.”
Gun rights advocates and others condemned Guth in the days after his post, saying he was wishing death on the children of National Rifle Association members. Guth said he wasn’t advocating violence, but was trying to make gun-rights advocates see mass shootings from the point of view of the victims’ families.
The university placed Guth on indefinite, paid leave shortly after the tweet.
The senate resolution issued Thursday was prompted in part by an earlier statement from the Senate’s Committee on Faculty Rights, Privileges and Responsibilities that dealt directly with Guth’s leave. The committee’s statement said that although the university administration said Guth’s leave did not constitute a professional sanction, it “has the appearance of being a sanction applied without compliance with University Rules and Regulations or with the Faculty Code of Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct.”
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little has said Guth was put on leave to avoid disruption of his classes “and not because of the nature of the professor’s comments, regardless of how controversial they may be.”
Senate President Christopher Steadham also said faculty will be represented on the university committee reviewing the duration of Guth’s leave and the conditions for his return.