The state of Tennessee passed a bill into law last week that helps protect the freedom of speech. The following is from the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE):
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law Senate Bill 723, the Campus Free Speech Protection Act, a comprehensive law providing some of the country’s strongest protections for student and faculty speech on public college campuses. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is grateful to Sen. Doug Overbey and Rep. Eddie Smith for championing this legislation, and to Reps. Martin Daniel and John Ragan for initiating the conversation last year in the Tennessee General Assembly.
“FIRE is happy Tennessee legislators addressed so many of the concerns we have raised over the years with this legislation,” said FIRE’s Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn. “Protecting the free speech rights of students and faculty on public college campuses across Tennessee is an important victory for everyone who cares about the future of higher education.”
The new law has several provisions which will ensure that free speech thrives on public campuses throughout Tennessee. The law will:
- Require institutions to adopt policies consistent with the University of Chicago’s Free Speech Policy Statement;
- Prohibit the use of misleadingly labeled “free speech zones”;
- Define student-on-student harassment in a way that is consistent with the definition provided by the Supreme Court of the United States in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education;
- Bar institutions from rescinding invitations to speakers invited by students or faculty;
- Prohibit viewpoint discrimination in the allocation of student fees to student organizations; and
- Protect faculty from being punished for speech in the classroom, unless the speech is both “not reasonably germane to the subject matter of the class as broadly construed, and comprises a substantial portion of classroom instruction.”
The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Tennessee House of Representatives by a vote of 85-7, and prevailed on a unanimous 30-0 vote in the Senate.