University of Kansas

Location: Lawrence, Kansas
Website: http://www.ku.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 10th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Kansas has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

Red Light Policies

  • Housing Handbook: Policies and Procedures- Harassment, Sexual and Sexual Assault 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment takes a variety of forms. Sexual harassment may include, but is not limited to, the following: … such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or educational environment. Repeated or unwanted sexual attention or sexual advances are forms of sexual harassment.

    Examples of verbal or physical conduct that are prohibited include but are not limited to: … a pattern of conduct intended to humiliate or cause discomfort, or both, including unwelcome comments of a sexual nature; unwelcome sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, gestures, or anecdotes; unwelcome propositions of a sexual nature; unwelcome touching, patting, hugging, or brushing against a person’s body or clothing; unwelcome remarks of a sexual nature, including remarks about a person’s body or clothing; unwelcome remarks about sexual activity; showing, exposing to, or subjecting others to materials or media of a sexual nature.

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  • Housing Handbook: Policies and Procedures- Harassment, General 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassing behavior or materials regardless of method or medium of harassment is prohibited. This includes any comment, action, or type of behavior that is threatening, insulting, intimidating, demeaning or discriminatory or disrupts the community environment or limits a resident’s or their guest’s ability to participate in their residential community and on campus. This includes acts of coercion, stalking, bullying, pranks and prank phone calls, vandalism or defacement of personal property, and attempts to embarrass or humiliate.

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  • Examples of Sexual Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of situations. These are examples of sexual harassment, not intended to be all inclusive:

    • Unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive words on clothing, and unwelcome comments and repartee.
    • Touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker’s back, grabbing an employee around the waist, or interfering with an employee’s ability to move.
    • Repeated requests for dates that are turned down or unwanted flirting.
    • Transmitting or posting emails or pictures of a sexual or other harassment-related nature.
    • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or posters.
    • Playing sexually suggestive music.
    • Sharing sexually inappropriate images or videos, such as pornography, with co-workers.
    • Sending suggestive letters, notes, or e-mails.
    • Displaying inappropriate sexual images or posters in the workplace.
    • Telling lewd jokes, or sharing sexual anecdotes.
    • Making inappropriate sexual gestures.
    • Staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner, or whistling.
    • Making sexual comments about appearance, clothing, or body parts.
    • Inappropriate touching, including pinching, patting, rubbing, or purposefully brushing up against another person.
    • Asking sexual questions, such as questions about someone’s sexual history or their sexual orientation.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Housing Handbook: Policies and Procedures- Disorderly or Disruptive Conduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Students should not engage in disruptive or disorderly conduct or harassing, lewd, indecent, or obscene conduct or expression.

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  • KU ResNet Responsible Use Agreement 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies, Statement

    As a user of electronic information resources and in consideration of the University's providing me electronic access and services, I agree to abide by the following: ... # The University encourages civil discourse, tolerance, and respect for all peoples, as outlined in the Chancellor's Ten Points for A Great University, http://www.chancellor.ku.edu/strategic/initiative_2001/Feb3tenpnt.html. Rude and harassing e-mail does not demonstrate this value.

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  • Housing Handbook: Policies and Procedures- Harassment, Electronic 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Use of any electronic media as a means for harassment is strictly prohibited. Harassing behavior includes sending text, picture, audio, video or executable electronic code (virus’s, etc.) over electronic forums, message boards, social media sites and services, instant messaging or chat services, email, or other internet or intranet service, and websites. This includes repeated unwanted contact or any stalking or bullying behaviors on any of the aforementioned media.

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  • Housing Handbook: Policies and Procedures- Dissemination of Information 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Posting Policies

    Posting materials is prohibited without approval by the complex director or KU Student Housing.

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Green Light Policies
  • Housing Handbook: Policies and Procedures- Harassment, Racial and Ethnic Harassment or Discrimination 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Racial and ethnic harassment at the University of Kansas includes, but is not limited to, racially or ethnically motivated: 1) behavior or conduct addressed directly to an individual(s) that threatens violence or property damage, or incites imminent lawless action; 2) behavior or conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or educational environment for an individual or group; or 3) behavior or conduct that has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s or group’s work, academic performance, living environment, personal safety, or participation in a university-sponsored activity; or 4) behavior or conduct that has the purpose or effect of threatening an individual’s or group’s employment or academic opportunities.

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  • Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: Bill of Rights 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    Free inquiry, expression, and assembly are guaranteed to all students.

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  • A New Year for Student Rights

    January 9, 2014

    by Joseph Cohn We would like to think of American universities as the first place where young adults come into their full freedom — rationally run institutions where students challenge themselves intellectually and broaden their horizons. Unfortunately, too many campuses fail to measure up to these ideals. Over the past year, my organization — the nonpartisan, nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) — has worked hard to defend student rights like free speech, due process, and religious liberty on campuses across the country. The threats to student rights came from all directions: overzealous campus administrators, students seeking to silence peers’ […]

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  • Controversial ‘social media’ policy in KS to be revisited

    January 7, 2014

    by Bob Kellogg After a flood of criticism from free-speech advocates, the Kansas Board of Regents has decided to review a new and very unpopular policy restricting social media comments. The controversial policy (Section C.6.b), which was adopted by the regents in mid-December, addresses the issue of “improper use of social media” by university employees and administration. Since then, however, the policy has attracted a steady stream of criticism from advocates of academic freedom – one categorizing it as “the hair-trigger use of punitive authority whenever the agency’s public image is imperiled.” In response to such criticism, the board announced last week they will […]

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  • Critics challenge Kansas Board of Regents’ new social media policy

    December 24, 2013

    by Brad Cooper Opposition is snowballing against a new policy aimed at how faculty and staff at Kansas universities use social media. Two national education groups have condemned the policy, arguing that it threatens the First Amendment rights and academic freedoms enjoyed by faculty. And faculty are increasingly voicing their opposition to the policy, most recently Monday when 40 distinguished professors at Kansas State University called for the policy to be repealed. “I think this is going to have to be changed,” said Phil Nel, a K-State English professor who signed the letter sent to the Kansas Board of Regents. […]

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  • Why States Need Social Media Policies

    October 29, 2013

    by Melissa Maynard Soon after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence posted a statement on Facebook expressing disappointment in the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, a long string of comments affirming his support for “traditional marriage” appeared. What was missing: Comments from people who disagreed with his position, which were promptly being deleted. “His staff tried to make it look like he was living in an echo chamber and everyone in Indiana agreed with him,” said Andrew Markle, who, like the governor, is a Republican. Markle launched a website and Facebook account to document what he dubbed “Pencership” – i.e., Pence’s censorship. At first, the […]

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  • KU case shows how backlash from professors’ remarks can inflame politicians

    September 29, 2013

    by Brad Cooper One professor compared terror victims to Nazis. Another suggested the feds toppled the twin towers. A third accused Republicans of raping the country. And the most recent eyebrow-raiser from an ivory tower: The children of gun rights advocates deserve to be taken out in the next mass shooting. The same colleges and universities whose scholars grab unfriendly headlines must look for money from legislatures that often find their views not just provocative, but offensive. That’s exacerbated by campuses perceived to lean left that must seek appropriations from state legislatures that increasingly tilt to the right. Consider the […]

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  • Why the University of Kansas Was Wrong to Suspend Tweeting Professor

    September 26, 2013

    After the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shootings last week, Professor David Guth of the University of Kansas (KU) sparked national controversy by tweeting the following: "#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."Predictably, a firestorm of criticism followed. In addition to being lambasted online and in the press, Guth says he has received threats, and state legislators have even called for his firing.As First Amendment Center President Ken Paulson has explained, Guth’s speech is protected by the First Amendment, offensive though many may find […]

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  • Protected tweet?

    September 23, 2013

    by Colleen Flaherty Faculty advocates and free speech experts criticized the University of Kansas Friday after it put a tenured journalism professor on indefinite leave for a controversial tweet he posted in the aftermath of the recent Washington Navy Yard shooting. David W. Guth wrote: “#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.” No one denied that the associate professor’s remark was in poor taste. Some experts also said Guth’s comment warranted investigation and condemnation by the the university. But his near-immediate suspension may have violated […]

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  • Kansas Professor’s Suspension Over NRA Tweet Draws Rebuke

    September 23, 2013

    by Jacob Gershman The University of Kansas is coming under fire from a free-speech watchdog group for suspending a journalism professor over his controversial tweets about the National Rifle Association. David Guth, an associate professor of journalism, was put on indefinite administrative leave on Friday for implying on Twitter that he wished violent harm upon the families of the NRA. Hours after last week’s Washington Navy Yard rampage, the professor reportedly tweeted: “#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.” A spokesman for the NRA called Mr. […]

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  • KU case shows how backlash from professors’ remarks can inflame politicians

    September 19, 2013

    by Brad Cooper One professor compared terror victims to Nazis. Another suggested the feds toppled the twin towers. A third accused Republicans of raping the country. And the most recent eyebrow-raiser from an ivory tower: The children of gun rights advocates deserve to be taken out in the next mass shooting. The same colleges and universities whose scholars grab unfriendly headlines must look for money from legislatures that often find their views not just provocative, but offensive. That’s exacerbated by campuses perceived to lean left that must seek appropriations from state legislatures that increasingly tilt to the right. Consider the […]

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  • KU Senate Urges Kansas Board of Regents to Suspend Controversial Social Media Policy

    February 10, 2014

    Last month, the Kansas Board of Regents denied a faculty group’s request for the suspension of the Board’s controversial and overbroad social media policy while that policy was being reviewed. Now the University of Kansas (KU) Senate has approved a resolution reiterating that the policy “infringes on the right to freedom of expression” and should be suspended pending review. As Torch readers may recall, the policy, passed in December, allows the chief executive officer of a university to fire a faculty member if he or she posts anything on social media that “impairs … harmony among co-workers” or is, in […]

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  • Kansas Faculty Workgroup Plans to Rewrite Overbroad Policy

    January 27, 2014

    Earlier this month, the Kansas Board of Regents created a “workgroup” to review its overbroad and vague new policy on “improper use of social media” by faculty at Kansas public colleges and universities. As my colleague Will Creeley reported last Thursday, the Board refused to suspend the policy during review, leaving faculty still at risk of being fired for posts that “impair[] … harmony among co-workers” or are “contrary to the best interest of the university,” among other things. But happily, the workgroup has already shown greater respect for faculty free speech rights—the Lawrence Journal-World reported Friday that the group plans to “disregard th[e] policy and […]

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  • Hey, Kansas Board of Regents: Remember the First Rule of Holes…

    January 23, 2014

    Last week, Peggy Lowe of Kansas City public radio station KCUR reported that the Kansas Board of Regents has denied a faculty group’s request that the Board immediately suspend the frighteningly broad social media policy it imposed system-wide late last December. This latest headscratcher is conclusive proof that the Board has entirely forgotten the first rule of holes: When you find yourself in one, stop digging. Surely Torch readers remember this gem of a speech code—but if you need a refresher, this is the one that allows for the firing of a professor whose post on Twitter “impairs … harmony among co-workers” or whose Facebook […]

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  • Pittsburg State President Unintentionally Concedes Problem with Kansas Social Media Policy

    January 13, 2014

    Facing mounting criticism that its new policy on “improper use of social media” endangers not justacademic freedom but potentially also the University of Kansas’s accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, the Kansas Board of Regents is continuing with its plan to form a “workgroup” that will review the policy. Faculty rights advocates are concerned about the policy’s broad and vaguely-worded prohibitions on, among other things, “impair[ing] harmony among co-workers” or making a communication that is, according to a university’s CEO’s judgment, “contrary to the best interest of the university.” And in trying to alleviate faculty concerns, Pittsburg State University (PSU) President Steve Scott has illustrated exactly why […]

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  • Do Kansas Regents’ New Social Media Restrictions Threaten Accreditation?

    January 9, 2014

    Professor Susan Twombly, chairwoman of the University of Kansas’ (KU’s) Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, believes that the Kansas Board of Regents’ new social media restrictions on faculty threatened the accreditation of KU. Why? The Lawrence Journal-World (Kan.) reports: Her concerns largely center on one of the criteria for accreditation through the HLC, which requires that the university be “committed to freedom of expression and the pursuit of truth in teaching and learning,” as stated in an HLC accreditation guide. Another component requires the university to establish and follow “fair and ethical policies for its governing board, administration, faculty and staff.” […]

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  • Kansas Board of Regents to Review Controversial Social Media Policy

    January 2, 2014

    The Kansas Board of Regents announced Tuesday that it will create a “workgroup” to review the new policy on “improper use of social media” by faculty that has earned a steady stream of criticism from academic freedom advocates since it was adopted two weeks ago. FIRE, the ACLU of Kansas, and the National Coalition Against Censorship sent a joint letter (PDF) to the Board on December 20, urging a repeal of the policy. As we noted in our letter, the policy puts protected faculty speech at risk for censorship or punishment because it is both overbroad and vague. The Board’s new statement says: Because of concerns expressed regarding the Board of […]

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  • ‘Slate’ Slams Kansas Board of Regents’ Outrageous New Social Media Policy

    December 24, 2013

    As a Torch reader, you’re probably already familiar with the controversial new social media policy adopted last week by the Kansas Board of Regents that empowers public universities in the state to terminate faculty whose speech in social media, among other things, “impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers” or “is contrary to the best interest of the university,” whatever that means in practice. Yesterday, Slate columnist Rebecca Schuman joined the chorus of critics condemning the policy. In her column, titled “The Brave New World of Academic Censorship,” Schuman explains the tremendous threat this policy poses to professors’ academic freedom and free speech. She writes: This new policy will effectively […]

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  • FIRE, ACLU of Kansas, and NCAC Send Letter to Kansas Board of Regents; Board Hints at Changes

    December 23, 2013

    On Friday, FIRE, the ACLU Foundation of Kansas, and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) sent a joint letter (PDF) to the Kansas Board of Regents urging the Board to rescind its controversial new policy restricting the use of social media by faculty and staff at public colleges and universities across the state. Among other things, the policy allows for a professor’s employment to be terminated when his or her speech “impairs … harmony among co-workers” or if, in the sole opinion of a university’s chief executive officer, the speech is “contrary to the best interest of the university.” After a wave of criticism (PDF) from […]

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  • FIRE, AAUP Express Alarm Over New Kansas Social Media Policy

    December 20, 2013

    The Kansas Board of Regents adopted a new policy Wednesday that subjects faculty and staff speech on social media to vaguely-worded and broad restrictions. The nine-member board approved the policy, which governs dozens of colleges and universities across Kansas, with little, if any, input from professors. While a press release issued by the Board claims that the policy relies on language from the U.S. Supreme Court and has been approved by the state attorney general, professors and civil libertarians have pointed to several aspects of the policy that put professors’ First Amendment rights at risk. The policy change comes in the wake of the controversy surrounding […]

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  • AAUP: Academic Freedom Applies to Electronic Communication

    December 10, 2013

    Last month, the American Association of University Professors drafted a report reaffirming its conclusions from a 2004 report that electronic communications should be governed by the same principles of academic freedom as expression in traditional media. November’s report acknowledges that even in the past nine years, technology has advanced significantly in ways that have “potentially profound implications for both privacy and free expression.” But as the AAUP writes, the overriding principle articulated in its 2004 report still applies: Academic freedom, free inquiry, and freedom of expression within the academic community may be limited to no greater extent in electronic format than they are in […]

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  • U. of Kansas Faculty, Staff Declare Support for Suspended Professor’s First Amendment Rights

    October 3, 2013

    As FIRE’s Peter Bonilla reported yesterday, 13 faculty members of the University of Kansas (KU) journalism department released a disappointing statement supporting the university’s suspension of journalism professor David Guth after he posted a controversial statement on Twitter regarding the National Rifle Association and September’s Navy Yard shootings. Thankfully, more than 100 current and former KU staff and faculty members have recognized the importance of freedom of expression and have signed on to a declaration of support for Guth’s First Amendment rights. The statement reads: As members of the faculty and staff of the University of Kansas, the undersigned individuals […]

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  • On Professor’s Suspension at KU, Journalism Faculty Get Free Speech Wrong, Anthropology Faculty Get It Right

    October 2, 2013

    Recently, FIRE’s Will Creeley took to The Huffington Post  to explain why the University of Kansas significantly erred in suspending journalism professor David Guth, who became a lightning rod of controversy following a controversial tweet in the aftermath of September’s Navy Yard shootings. FIRE wrote to KU on September 22; KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little released a statement attempting to mollify the situation. While Gray-Little clarified that the suspension was “not because of the nature of the professor’s comments,” she nonetheless justified it by stating that it was imposed “to avoid further disruption of the learning environment.” As Will pointed out, […]

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  • The University of Kansas’ Response to Professor’s Controversial Tweet Threatens Speech. Here’s Why.

    September 25, 2013

    Over in The Huffington Post, I explain why the University of Kansas’ decision to suspend—pardon me, “administratively withdraw”—Professor David Guth threatens the free speech rights of all KU students and faculty.  Drawing on FIRE’s letter to KU, sent over the weekend, I point out that because Guth’s speech is protected by the First Amendment, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s claim that the suspension is necessary because the university needs time to figure out what to do next just doesn’t wash. I write:  Gray-Little states that Guth was put on administrative leave "so that the university may review the entire situation." But this […]

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  • The University of Kansas Controversy: Defending the Freedom to Tweet

    September 23, 2013

    University of Kansas (KU) Professor David Guth made news last week for the following tweet in the wake of the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard: “#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.” Considering the tenor of the statement, outrage predictably ensued. Among the outraged are some members of the Kansas legislature, at least one of whom has plainly stated that he will not “support any budget proposals or recommendations for the University of Kansas” as long as Guth remains employed […]

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  • Censorship of Art on Campus Is Also Unlearning Liberty

    August 16, 2013

    Tom Gregg, Bad Apple, oil on panel, one of the works censored at U. of KansasIn 2002, someone at the Department of Justice had curtains draped strategically over an aluminum statue in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice to cover up Lady Justice’s exposed breast. Whether fairly or not, John Ashcroft, then Attorney General, was widely mocked for this move.  The August 13 edition of the Dartmouth Review has an article by James G. Rascoff that discusses Dartmouth College’s decision to cover another work of art from the 1930s. And yesterday, the Associated Press’s Maria Sudekum reported that the Medical Center […]

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  • KU’s Student Senate Votes to Protect Students’ Speech Rights

    March 19, 2012

    The University Daily Kansan reports that the University of Kansas’ (KU’s) Student Senate has acted to protect students’ speech rights when expressing themselves online or in social media. The Student Senate’s policy changes, which are subject to the approval of KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, will be reflected in the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. The Kansan reports: Article 8 of the code on campus expression was updated, and expands student’s [sic] freedom of speech. Students cannot be punished for what is said on social media websites or through other online communication unless it is disruptive to the University’s operations. […]

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  • ‘Daily Kansan’ Highlights KU’s Red-Light Speech Codes, but Point Remains to be Made About FIRE’s Speech Code Research

    October 19, 2011

    In an article published yesterday, The University Daily Kansan, a student newspaper at the University of Kansas (KU), helpfully brings attention to KU’s speech codes. The article, written by student Bobby Burch, in particular highlights KU’s two “red light” harassment policies. Quoting me, the article breaks down the First Amendment problems with these policies: FIRE claims that the University’s “Housing Handbook” contains two harassment and sexual assault policies that limit free speech. One University policy that the group takes issue with states that harassment includes conduct that “purposely humiliates another person, stalks another person, or makes degrading comments or prank […]

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