Yesterday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed legislation that protects student and faculty free speech at public colleges.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the law’s free speech protections includes these policies:
- 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.”
Robert Shibley, FIRE’s Executive Director, said regarding the law:
SB 723 is the most comprehensive state legislation protecting free speech on college campuses that we’ve seen be passed anywhere in the country. It is gratifying to see the Tennessee legislature take decisive action to protect the expressive rights of students and faculty, especially in light of the number of restrictive speech codes across the country and the recent controversies over speech on campus.
As you’ll remember, one of those “controversies over speech on campus” occurred last month at the University of Arkansas, when a speaker critical of some Islamic practices was disinvited from a law school symposium.
State Rep. Bob Ballinger said the law passed in Tennessee would generally be a good idea for Arkansas.
The whole point of a university is that different ideas would come into conflict with each other and people would have to wrestle with it and figure out which ideas rise to the top as being true. When a university is actively pushing out some ideas and embracing other ideas…they’re not performing their role as a university.
Passing this law in Arkansas would ensure that public Arkansas colleges and universities would no longer be able to be bullied into cancelling speaking invitations due to political correctness. That means public colleges and universities would be able to introduce students to a wide variety of ideological viewpoints and let them decide for themselves.