KU prof who tweeted controversially back at work, but not classroom

12/18/2013 11:55 PM

12/18/2013 11:55 PM

A University of Kansas journalism professor who angrily lashed out at the National Rifle Association on Twitter this fall will be allowed to return to the school.

But administrators said David Guth would be assigned nonclassroom duties for the rest of the year. Guth must complete administrative work for the journalism school away from campus as much as possible.

He was placed on indefinite leave with pay on Sept. 20 after posting a comment on Twitter wishing violence on the families of NRA members after the Washington Navy Yard shootings.

The professor tweeted that “blood is on the hands” of the NRA.

“Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters,” the tweet read. “Shame on you. May God damn you.”

The comment immediately sparked reaction, with gun-rights supporters calling for his firing and state lawmakers threatening to punish the school financially if he wasn’t let go. There has been speculation that lawmakers will visit the issue during the upcoming legislative session.

Others criticized the university for putting Guth on administrative leave, suggesting the university should have done more to protect his free speech even if officials disagreed with his tweet.

Guth will begin a previously approved semester-long research sabbatical in January. His annual salary is $82,703.

It was unclear Thursday whether Guth would return to the classroom next fall.

Guth issued a statement Thursday evening apologizing for his tweet, which “caused a great deal of pain for many people.”

“Some interpreted my tweet differently than it was intended,” Guth wrote. “I don’t want anyone’s children hurt. The fact my words were misconstrued is my fault.”

Guth said he was a professional communicator but didn’t do a good job of explaining his position.

“I also regret that my statements have had a negative impact on the university community,” he wrote.

The university’s decision to let Guth return was based on the recommendation of a seven-member panel of faculty and staff assembled by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. She wanted the committee to determine whether Guth could return from leave without disrupting the student learning environment.

State Sen. Greg Smith of Overland Park was one of the first to call for Guth’s firing. He was not satisfied with the university’s response.

“All they’re doing is stalling, hoping that it will die down and everybody will forget about it,” said Smith, a Republican. “He was way out of line, way outside anything that’s covered by tenure, due process or anything else. As far as I’m concerned, it was hate speech.”

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