The University of Kansas placed Professor David Guth on administrative leave after strong public backlash to his controversial gun control tweet in response to the Navy Yard shooting last Monday.
“The volume of emails and phone calls have been quite threatening and disruptive on both sides,” said Ann Brill, Dean of the William Allen White School of Journalism.
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little released a statement Friday morning announcing the action. Dean Brill wrote that the privilege to express controversial opinions must be balanced with the rights of others in a statement Thursday, and she clarified that administrative leave is intended to create time for the University to review the situation rather than to punish Professor Guth.
“I don't want anyone to feel afraid to come to campus but one way to quiet this was to create some distance,” Brill said. “And to make sure that Professor Guth was able to be safe too.”
Guth, a Strategic Communications professor at the William Allen White 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.”
The tweet received only a handful of comments until Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog project run by the Leadership Institute, a conservative activist group, published an article with an interview from Guth this afternoon. The article ran with the headline “Journalism professor says he hopes for murder of NRA members' children.”
In a longer post to his personal blog published Monday, Guth wrote:
“I don't wish what happened today on anyone. But if it does happen again-and it likely will-may it happen to those misguided miscreants who suggest that today's death toll at the Navy Yard would have been lower if the employees there were allowed to pack heat.”
Guth stood by his tweet and blog post, saying that he has nothing to apologize for.
“All I did was what any American should have the right to do: express his or her opinion in an opinion forum,” Guth said Thursday. “I regret that there's been a blowback at KU. I didn't do it on a KU site.”
Chancellor Gray-Little said that Guth's classes will be taught by other faculty members. Some students in Guth's classes are asking to drop or be transferred to other sections.
“In order to prevent disruptions to the learning environment for students, the School of Journalism and the university, I have directed Provost Jeffrey Vitter to place Associate Professor Guth on indefinite administrative leave pending a review of the entire situation,” Gray-Little wrote.
The Kansas Board of Regents, which governs the six public universities in the state of Kansas, has expressed offense at Guth's statements.
“The Board expresses its appreciation for the immediate response by the chancellor to the situation and expresses its confidence in her leadership,” said Andy Tompkins, President and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents.
The School of Journalism has fielded several donors' concerns about Guth's conduct.
“We have a lot of wonderful alumni--they're very talented people of amazing integrity--and I hope they appreciate we're trying to do what's best for the students,” Brill said.