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U of Sask professor wrongly disciplined by school for social media posts, arbitrator rules

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An arbitrator has found the University of Saskatchewan wrongly disciplined a professor who has been a vocal advocate for COVID-19 vaccines, sometimes leading to conflict on social media.

The university sent a letter to Kyle Anderson, an assistant professor of biochemistry, microbiology and immunology, in April 2021 regarding its social media conduct standards.

That letter criticized some of his social media posts and demanded he take steps to disassociate himself from the university in his social media activity.

In a decision dated Sept. 29, arbitrator Eric Cline said the letter was considered to be disciplinary.

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However, the proper steps outlined in the university’s collective agreement weren’t followed, the decision says, because Anderson wasn’t made aware of the complaints before the letter, meaning the university had no standing to make that order.

“I’m really thankful to my union for supporting me when the university seemed to make a few knee-jerk reaction responses to complaints that were not really founded and complaints that were really harassing at times,” he said in a Thursday interview with CBC.

Anderson said his public communication was not an “effort to try to speak for the university.” Rather, he was “just trying to get information out there,” he said.

Anderson has often posted to combat misinformation about COVID-19 in his social media posts and was commended for that by his department head and the dean of the university’s college of medicine in December 2020, according to the arbitrator’s decision.

But he also became involved that same month in a social media exchange described in court documents as “rancorous,” in which he later admitted to the department head that he “could have done better.”

Kyle Anderson says his attempts to combat COVID-19 misinformation online were not intended to speak on behalf of the university, but ‘just trying to get information out there.’ (Kyle Anderson/Facebook)

Anderson said Thursday there was a learning process in trying to “manage how to be attacked without attacking back or without feeling like I needed to defend myself.”

In April 2021, Anderson tweeted “there is a much stronger undercurrent of anti-Moe exasperation across the province than we are aware of,” in reference to Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

A little more than a week later, he retweeted an accusatory tweet related to the death of an educational assistant in Moose Jaw. He later apologized for that retweet and removed it.

Both of those tweets were the subject of the letter he got in late April 2021 that, according to the decision, said the university had “received multiple complaints from the public expressing concerns with communications you have recently posted and shared through social media.”

“Some of these complaints have expressly asserted that you are leveraging your status as a member of the faculty of the University of Saskatchewan in your postings,” the letter said.

It demanded that his social media no longer indicate a link to the university, including in his comments, biography, or personal communications. If he failed to do so, the university would consider disciplinary actions, the letter warned.

The university’s president, vice-president, academic and the dean of medicine signed it.


Backing Anderson, the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association took the university to arbitration and won.

The arbitrator ordered that the letter sent to Anderson must be “removed from any and all university files where it may be situated.”

In an email, the university said it was aware of the decision but said due to privacy issues, it “cannot provide any further comment on the specific situation.”

Despite the arbitration victory, Anderson’s Twitter no longer references his employment at the university. He said he doesn’t believe he needs it there because people know who he is without it.

“It’s nice to know that I can put back up where I work on my social media profiles whenever I wish to,” he said.

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Bark and Bite | On the Media | WNYC Studios

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Putin decries media ‘lies’ at meeting with soldiers’ mothers

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday hit out at what he said were skewed media portrayals of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine as he met with mothers of Russian soldiers fighting there.

“Life is more difficult and diverse that what is shown on TV screens or even on the Internet. There are many fakes, cheating, lies there”, Putin said.

The meeting in the Kremlin with more than a dozen women came as uncertainty persists over whether enlistment efforts may resume in the face of recent battlefield setbacks.

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Putin said that he sometimes speaks with troops directly by telephone, according to a Kremlin transcript and photos of the meeting.

“I’ve spoken to (troops) who surprised me with their mood, their attitude to the matter. They didn’t expect these calls from me… (the calls) give me every reason to say that they are heroes,” Putin said.

Some soldiers’ relatives have complained of not being invited to the meeting and have directly criticized Putin’s leadership as well as the recent “partial mobilization” that defense officials said resulted in 300,000 reservists being called up.

 

Olga Tsukanova of the Council of Mothers and Wives, a movement formed by relatives of mobilized soldiers, said in a video message on the Telegram messaging app authorities have ignored queries and requests from her organization.

“We are here in Moscow, ready to meet with you. We are waiting for your reply,” she said, addressing Putin directly.

“We have men in the ministry of defense, in the military prosecutor’s office, powerful guys in the presidential administration… and mothers on the other side. Will you start a dialogue or will you hide?,” she said in her message. Unconfirmed reports by some Russian media outlets suggested that some of the women meeting with Putin on Friday were members of pro-Kremlin social movements, the ruling United Russia party, or local officials backing Putin’s government.

Valentina Melnikova from of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers, a Russian rights organization, told the independent Verstka publication earlier this week that its members were also not invited to the meeting.

Since October, relatives of mobilized soldiers have organized protests in over a dozen Russian regions, calling on the authorities to release their relatives from frontline duty and ensure they had appropriate food rations, shelter and equipment.

Reports by the AP, independent Russian media, and activists have suggested that many of the mobilized reservists are inexperienced, were told to procure basic items such as medical kits and flak jackets themselves, and did not receive proper training before deployment. Some were reported killed within days.

Concerns persist in Russia about whether the Kremlin may renew its mobilization efforts, as Ukrainian forces continue to press a counteroffensive in the country’s south and east. Moscow has suffered a string of battlefield setbacks, losing territory in the northeastern Kharkiv and southern Kherson regions.

 

While Russian officials last month declared the “partial mobilization” complete, critics have warned it could resume after military enlistment offices are freed up from processing conscripts from Russia’s annual fall draft.

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Jennifer Lopez returns to social media to announce ‘This Is Me…Now’

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CNN

Jennifer Lopez has used the 20th anniversary of the release of her “This Is Me…Then” to announce an update.

“This Is Me…Now” will be her next project and reportedly “chronicles the emotional, spiritual and psychological journey that she has taken over the past two decades.”

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Lopez’s social media had gone dark in recent days with much speculation that a big announcement was in the works.

“Featuring confessional songs, reflections on the trials of her past, upbeat celebrations of love with her signature powerhouse vocals, This Is Me…Now shines a spotlight on her tough childhood, unsuccessful relationships and the incredible emotional journey she has been on,” according to Rolling Stone, citing a press release.

The original album, “This Is Me…Then,” was released on November 25, 2002.

In a video posted on her verified social media, Lopez is shown morphing from the artist she was then to who she is today.

“This Was Me…Then” was dedicated to her then-fiance Ben Affleck. It featured her hit single “Jenny From the Block,” as well as a special song about Affleck, “Dear Ben.”

“This Is Me…Now” includes a track titled, “Dear Ben pt. ll.”

The new album was teased in Lopez’s recent Vogue interview in which the collection of songs was referred to “as a kind of bookend to This Is Me…Then, the album she released 20 years ago in the heady early days of her relationship with Affleck.”

“I’m not one of these tortured artists,” Lopez told Vogue. “Yes, I’ve lived with tremendous sadness, like anybody else, many, many times in my life, and pain. But when I make my best music or my best art is when I’m happy and full and feel lots of love.”

Lopez and Affleck are now married, almost 20 years after they first split as a couple.

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