LAWRENCE, Kan. – University of Kansas anthropology professors are accusing school officials of violating the constitutional rights of a fellow professor by placing him on leave because of a post on Twitter.
Journalism professor David Guth got into hot water for a tweet aimed at the National Rifle Association after the Sept. 16 shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., that left 13 dead.
"The blood is on the hands of the (hash)NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you," Guth posted.
The backlash was swift, with many accusing Guth of wishing death on the children of NRA members. Some Kansas legislative leaders have called on the university's Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little to fire Guth, with a few saying they will not support funding for the university if he isn't fired.
Guth said he wasn't advocating violence but was trying to make gun-rights advocates look at shootings from the point of view of the victims' families.
In a statement issued Friday, 14 professors and anthropology department chairwoman Jane Gibson said the university's actions against Guth have a chilling effect on academic freedom, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.
"While we take no position on the content of what he said, David Guth spoke as a private person and exercised his right to free speech that is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Faculty Code of Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct," the statement said.
Gray-Little has said Guth was placed on indefinite leave to avoid disrupting classes, "not because of the nature of the professor's comments, regardless of how controversial they may be."
Tenured faculty members in the journalism school also have issued a statement supporting Guth's First Amendment rights to free speech, though they said they disagreed with his statement.