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K-State Today

April 10, 2014



Stand for Freedom of Speech: 'Five on the Hour,' April 21, 22

By Philip Nel

Dear colleagues,

As the Kansas Board of Regents prepares to consider the workgroup's recommended changes to its social media policy, we're inviting you to join us in helping students understand the important implications for themselves, their university and their society. On Monday, April 21, and Tuesday, April 22, we're going to do a "Five on the Hour Pause," where at the top of the hour we each take five minutes to talk a little bit about why freedom of speech is important to our discipline, academia and the culture at large.

We're doing it at the top of each hour to provide a sense of the unifying, interdisciplinary importance of this topic. We're proposing two days to cover classes that meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday as well as Tuesday and Thursday. If your class meets once a week but not on a Monday or Tuesday, then we invite you to simply take five minutes during that class on whatever day it meets. We believe this is an important teaching moment for all the students at our campus.

If you are interested in participating, here are a few guidelines we suggest you follow:

  1. Present a clear explanation of academic freedom. We've drafted a statement, but you should feel free to modify it, if you think it needs modifying:

    The university is a community of scholars. As scholars, we discover new knowledge and create new ideas. These ideas are different from what has come before, and difference can be controversial. Indeed, sometimes our ideas challenge social mores. To test our ideas, we debate them, refine them, change them. This process of creation and discovery — evaluated through open and unfettered dialogue — is the means by which our civilization progresses. And the only environment under which this process can occur is an environment of free speech.

  2. Identify the discipline-specific implications for the class you're teaching. How have unconventional or controversial ideas, research methods, literature, etc. impacted the field your students study with you?

  3. Invite students to read the Kansas Board of Regents' policy and the workgroup's recommendation for a new policy. Inform them about the process involved thus far, who the participants are in these current events, as well as the timetable for public commentary. Invite them to explore further the connection between "real world" current events and the concept of academic freedom as it pertains to the subject they study in your course. Do not require your students to take any specific action. Do not use class time to lobby on the issue: remember that this is a teaching moment and not a form of political activity, in keeping with Kansas State law and Kansas Board of Regents policies.

Here are some informative links you might share with them:

Thanks very much for considering joining us.

Sincerely yours,

Lynn Davidman, sociology department, University of Kansas
Elizabeth Dodd, English department, Kansas State University
Susan Kemper, psychology department, University of Kansas
Philip Nel, English department, Kansas State University
Harald E.L. Prins, anthropology department, Kansas State University
Chris Sorensen, physics department, Kansas State University