Washburn University President Jerry Farley says the school’s revised communications policy does not prevent faculty and staff from speaking to the media and legislators, as some had thought.
Confusion arose when the Topeka school applied a communications policy from Washburn Institute of Technology to its deans, leading some to believe that faculty and staff needed administrators’ permission before talking to public officials and journalists.
Farley said that faculty and staff can voice their opinions publicly, as long as they make it clear they are speaking as individuals, not university representatives.
“There is nothing in the university’s policies, nothing in our procedures, which prohibit anyone from talking with anyone,” Farley told the Topeka Capital-Journal.
“It just can’t happen on a college campus anyway. Every faculty member is going to talk to whoever they want, every staff member is going to talk to whoever they want.”
Randy Pembrook, the university’s vice president for academic affairs and a liaison for the communication protocols, agreed that the protocols contain “no intent to limit speech of the faculty.”
Staff from Washburn Technical and Washburn University met earlier this year to discuss how the two could collaborate in promoting events. Communications protocols were later established to ensure that Washburn Tech staff members notify Farley and Pembrook when dignitaries visit the campus.
Pembrook sent the protocols to the university’s deans and directors and asked to be notified when “notable folks like the governor” are invited to campus or to coordinate Washburn events at the Statehouse.
But when the protocols were passed to the deans, subheads were added asking that they notify six people in administrative offices when they speak to the media or politicians “off campus.”
Pembrook said the protocols were meant to apply to only to deans and directors who report directly to Pembrook. At least one dean passed the protocols on to his faculty and staff.
Bob Beatty, a political science professor who is frequently interviewed about Kansas politics, said his dean hadn’t asked him to change how he deals with the media.
“I have heard of no directive from anybody,” Beatty said. “I just continue as I always have until I’m told otherwise.”
Matt Arterburn, president of the Faculty Senate, said he believes administrators are drafting new communication protocols to “clearly delineate the expectations of administrators versus faculty.”