Free Speech: Go Vols!

A new year means new free speech protections on Tennessee college campuses. As of today, the “Campus Free Speech Protection Act” is law in the Volunteer State. That’s great news for any parent sending their kid to college.

This new law, signed last year by Governor Haslam, addresses many concerns those of us outside academia watched unfold over the last few years. Passing with overwhelming support, institutions of higher learning will send kids back to class with a new set of rules.

Here’s a look at a few of the goodies in SB 723:

*Schools must adopt policies consistent with the University Of Chicago’s Statement on Principles of Free Speech and Free Expression.

*All open, outdoor spaces of universities are to be considered “public forums” for free speech and expression.

*Goodbye and good riddance to “free speech zones.” Colleges may no longer designate an area in which students may freely express their views.

*No school gets to deny student groups activity fees because the school might disagree with the group’s viewpoint.

*Goodbye to the imposition of “security fees” for speakers invited to campus. The same goes to the tactic of “disinviting” a speaker a college may disagree with or find upsetting.

*Teachers are protected for speaking in class, unless the speech is “not reasonably germane to the subject matter of the class as broadly construed, and comprises a substantial portion of classroom instruction.”

*With regards to the issue of “student-on-student harassment,” schools must adopt policies consistent with the decision in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education. 

This is a massive win for free speech in the Volunteer State. It’s a step forward in reaffirming a bedrock principle of our country: the right to say, be, and do as you please. No longer will outrage culture or offense be considered when someone speaks on a Tennessee campus.

I’ve often joked when I see something pop up about an incident in Tennessee that “my people don’t always get it right.” This time my people didn’t just get it right, they knocked one out of the park. A strong commitment to free speech is important in higher education, and Tennessee just took a big set towards making sure students are educated instead of indoctrinated.

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