The Sound of Silence; or, the Kansas Legislature’s Latest Blunder

Remain Vigilant (small version)In 2013, the Kansas Board of Regents revoked university employees’ right to freedom of speech, making a fireable offense any speech that might be conceived as disloyal, impair discipline, or fall under the broad category of being “contrary to the best interests of the employer.” Now, the Kansas legislature is proposing legislation that prohibits university employees from “using such employee’s official title when authoring or contributing to a newspaper opinion column.” So, if you write an op-ed piece, you cannot identify your title or place of employment. This law would only apply to university employees.

Here’s a question for the Kansas legislature: What makes you think those of us employed by Kansas universities would want to be identified as such? Given the state’s hostility towards freedom of inquiry and towards education at all levels, what advantage would a university employee gain in publicizing his or her academic affiliation?

After the Board of Regents’ violation of our rights, I have stopped including my university affiliation in all of my publications. Here’s what my byline looks like on an article coming out in a couple of months:

Philip Nel's byline

If the Board of Regents restores our freedom of speech, and the legislature ceases trying to curtail those freedoms even further, I may consider acknowledging my affiliation in future.

But don’t bet the farm on it.


  1. Elsie Anderson


    I could see this resulting in professors using only their title and affiliation, not their name — but what’s to stop them from flouting the law? Would universities really enforce this legislation? Any college or university that terminated or otherwise disciplined a professor for offering a political opinion in a public forum would risk bad publicity and a loss of credibility in academic circles. Furthermore, any institution that resisted the legislation would stand to gain a great deal of goodwill and positive press — unfortunately for the Republicans in office, freedom of speech is valued by both academics and journalists.

  2. Dave


    When legislators like Peck quit using their titles in op-ed columns, or using their titles when they are quoted espousing an opinion in a newspaper article, it would be time to consider this bill. Until then, they just keep embarrassing themselves.

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