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Social media posts could get Kansas university employees fired

The Kansas state attorney general approved a revised policy that states any employee at a public university in the state can be fired over improperly using social media, raising questions that their First Amendment rights are being infringed upon.

"It's too broad; it's too vague, and it's already causing people to chill themselves in the way that they use social media," Doug Bonney, the legal director for the ALCU of Kansas, told Think Progress.

The Kansas Board of Regents approved last week an amended version of the new social media policy. The Wichita Eagle reported that the new policy allows a university's chief executive to fire any faculty member who uses social media and posts a comment that could incite violence, disclose confidential information or otherwise damage the university.

One of the elements of the new policy that has legal experts confused is the part that says a faculty member can face disciplinary action for "speech contrary to the interests of the university."

"Unless you had access to every piece of information pertaining to the university, you would never know what affects its interests," Ken Paulson, the president of the First Amendment Center, told Think Progress.

The regents developed the social media policy after an anti-NRA tweet in September 2013 by David Guth, a University of Kansas journalism professor. He reportedly tweeted, "blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters."

The tweet caused an uproar over the bounds of social media.

Under the policy, social media covers blogs and social networking sites.

Kirk McClure, a professor in the Department of Urban Planning at Kansas University, said the social media policy would hamper the ability for Kansas schools to compete for top faculty.

"The social media policy makes it even harder to sell KU to top faculty candidates. A new faculty member can be disciplined, even terminated for a tweet," McClure said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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