Professor’s tweet receives backlash from state legislators
- Sep. 24, 2013
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Kansas legislators are weighing in on the situation surrounding KU Professor David Guth following his controversial tweet regarding the Navy Yard shooting last Monday.
High ranking members of the Kansas GOP have issued statements condemning Guth’s tweet and calling for his termination.
“I feel I have no choice but to call upon the University of Kansas and Chancellor GrayLittle to remove Professor Guth from the University’s faculty,” Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce (R-Hutchinson) wrote in a statement on Facebook Thursday. “Wishing death and damnation upon parents and their children is reprehensible and is not befitting of an employee of such a distinguished university.”
Guth, a Strategic Communications professor in the School of Journalism, tweeted on Monday: “#NavyYardShooting The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.”
In his call for Guth’s termination, Bruce also cited the resignation of University Professor Paul Mirecki in 2005 for comments he made in an online forum regarding religious fundamentalists.
“In light of the recent tragedy that befell our nation, the comments of Professor Guth reflect as poorly, if not more so, upon the University of Kansas as the comments made by Professor Mirecki,” Bruce wrote.
In the days following Guth’s tweet, the University placed him on indefinite administrative leave. In a statement released on Friday, State Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) was supportive of the measures taken by the University, but said she wants more action taken.
“While initial steps have been encouraging, I trust University leaders will seek to minimize further damage to the reputation of the University of Kansas by severing all ties to Mr. Guth,” Wagle wrote.
Guth’s Twitter account has been removed in the wake of the public backlash, but he has refused to apologize for his comments.
“All I did was what any American should have the right to do: express his or her opinion in an opinion forum,” Guth said last Thursday. “I regret that there’s been a blowback at KU. I didn’t do it on a KU site.”
Senator Greg Smith (R-Overland Park) also called for Guth’s dismissal this weekend, citing his past conduct in addition to the recent tweet. The University censured Guth in 2010 for “unprofessional, threatening and abusive behavior towards another faculty member.”
“Professor Guth has a history of threatening colleagues, and he was censured for that,” Smith said. “Apparently he likes to threaten people whether it’s in social media or in person, and that’s not the person I want to be spending tax dollars on educating the people of Kansas.”
Another topic working its way into the discussion surrounding Guth is the subject of tenure, which could prevent the University from dismissing him. Smith said the issue is one that should be evaluated on a state level.
“The problem I have with tenure is that sometimes it protects employees that do acts like this that would get someone in the private sector fired,” Smith said. “The legislature can definitely look into that, but we would probably defer to the Board of Regents on that issue.”
Correction: The original version of this article misrepresented a past situation involving Religious Studies Professor Paul Mirecki. Mirecki did not resign from the University in 2005, only from his position as Religious Studies Department Chairman.