Proposed Law in Kansas Would Strip Professors of Titles in Opinion Articles

A bill making its way through the Kansas Legislature would prohibit professors at public institutions from being identified by their titles in newspaper opinion articles about an elected official, a candidate, or an issue being dealt with by a state public body.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill would require the governing boards of community colleges and public universities to enforce policies formalizing the ban, which would also apply to letters to the editor.

One lawmaker raised concerns about academic freedom. “To muzzle an academic in identifying him or herself, and their accomplishment, not only does it have the effect of denying them their right to free speech, it also denies the public the right to understand who is commenting and what their, perhaps, bias or interest might be,” said John Carmichael, a Democratic representative.

The proposed law would not apply to other news media.

Professors and other university employees would not be able to criticize lawmakers, the governor or other elected officials in letters to the editor if they use their official titles, under legislation introduced in the Legislature.House Bill 2234 would require the governing boards of community colleges and state universities to implement policies prohibiting employees from providing titles when authoring or contributing to newspaper opinion columns, which includes letters, op-eds and editorials.

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