- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A committee will research whether the University of Kansas needs an explicit policy supporting freedom of speech and expression.

The committee, which will form this summer and work through the next academic year, was proposed by outgoing University Senate President Mike Williams, an associate professor of journalism, who said the university must guarantee that it is a safe place for everyone to practice free speech, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (https://j.mp/1X1LhCA ).

The university has faced recent debates on several issues, such as its handling of racial discrimination on campus and a new law that will allow guns on campus beginning next year.

“As KU works to improve its climate of equity and inclusion, the university must commit to protecting our right to free speech, regardless of how offensive, uncivil or disagreeable such communication might be to members of our community,” Williams’ proposal says. “It must also find effective ways to educate about the responsibilities that come with this right.”

Especially with concealed carry of weapons permitted on campus in 2017, the university must establish a climate to “develop a tolerance for disagreement while avoiding violent confrontation,” according to the proposal.

The free speech policy also would help assure that faculty and employee work is free from pressure and influence from inside or outside the university, the proposal said.

While existing policies mention academic freedom and freedom of speech, the university currently has no policy saying it supports those concepts.

“It would be a good thing for us as a community to say, ‘Yeah, this is important to us,’” said outgoing committee member Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, professor of aerospace engineering and president of the Kansas chapter of American Association of University Professors.

The 12-member University Senate committee will include representatives from faculty, staff, students and administration. The proposal also requires each group to include at least one person from an underrepresented population.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com


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