East Tennessee State University

Location: Johnson City, Tennessee
Website: http://www.etsu.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 6th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

East Tennessee State University has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.

At present, FIRE has not been involved in any cases at this school.
Yellow Light Policies
  • Catalog: Policies and Procedures- Responding to Hate Crimes and Bias-Related Incidents

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: June 28, 2016

    Bias-related incidents are those that constitute an expression of hostility against the person or property of another because of the targeted person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, gender, age or disability and yet are not criminal acts. ETSU’s Policy On Sexual, Racial, and Other Harassment defines bias-related incidents “as any person’s conduct which unreasonably interferes with an employee’s or student’s status or performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or educational environment.”

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  • Catalog: Policies and Procedures- Student Sexual Misconduct Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: June 28, 2016

    Cyber-stalking: A particular form of stalking in which electronic media such as the Internet, social networks, blogs, cell phones, texts, or other similar devices or forms of contact are used to pursue, harass, or to make unwelcome contact with another person in an unsolicited fashion. Some examples of cyber-stalking include, but are not limited to, unwelcome or unsolicited emails, instant messages, and messages on on-line bulletin boards. It also includes, but is not limited to, unsolicited communications about a person, their family, friends, or co-workers….

    Harassment: Harassment is conduct that is based on a person’s race, color, religion, creed, ethnic or national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, age (as applicable), status as a covered veteran, genetic information, or any other category protected by federal or state civil rights law, that adversely affects a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, participation in an institution’s activities or living environment: Has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive or abusive environment of the individual; or is used as a basis for or a factor in decisions that tangibly affect that individual’s employment, education, participation in an institution’s activities or living environment.

    Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when one of the following criteria is met: … such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or educational experience, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or educational environment.

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  • Catalog: Policies and Procedures- General Statement on Discrimination and Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: June 28, 2016

    Harassment is conduct that is based on a person’s race, color, religion, creed, ethic or national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, age (as applicable), status as a covered veteran, genetic information, or any other category protected by federal or state civil rights law, that … Has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive or abusive environment of the individual;

    Examples of such conduct may include, but are not limited to verbal or physical conduct relating to an employee’s national origin, race, surname, skin color or accent, offensive or derogatory jokes based on a protected category, racial or ethnic slurs, pressure for dates or sexual favors, unwelcome comments about a person’s religion or religious garments, offensive graffiti, cartoons or pictures, or offensive remarks about a person’s age.

    Examples of sexual harassment may include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Refusing to hire, promote, or grant or deny certain privileges because of acceptance or rejection of sexual advances;
    • Promising a work-related benefit or a grade in return for sexual favors;
    • Suggestive or inappropriate communications, email, notes, letters, or other written materials displaying objects or pictures which are sexual in nature that would create hostile or offensive work or living environments;
    • Sexual innuendos, comments, and remarks about a person’s clothing, body or activities;
    • Suggestive or insulting sounds;
    • Whistling in a suggestive manner;
    • Humor and jokes about sex that denigrate men or women;
    • Sexual propositions, invitations, or pressure for sexual activity;
    • Use in the classroom of sexual jokes, stories, remarks or images in no way or only marginally relevant to the subject matter of the class;
    • Implied or overt sexual threats;
    • Suggestive or obscene gestures;
    • Patting, pinching, and other inappropriate touching;
    • Unnecessary touching or brushing against the body;
    • Attempted or actual kissing or fondling;
    • Sexual violence; including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion:
    • Suggestive or inappropriate acts, such as comments, innuendos, or physical contact based on one’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity/expression.

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  • East Tennessee State University Policy on Use of Campus Property and Facilities

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: June 28, 2016

    The University has designated two areas that may be used as a limited space for ad hoc meetings, rallies, protests, demonstrations by affiliated entities, and/or individuals. These areas may also be used by non-affiliated entities, and/or individuals under the same regulations. The two areas identified for this purpose are the Amphitheatre and upper adjacent lawn area and the Sherrod Library Borchuck Plaza. The normal time in which these areas are available is between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm daily. The same entity may use one of these areas up to four (4) times per four (4) week period.

    Affiliated and non-affiliated entities, or individuals may sell or distribute literature only in conjunction with their authorized presence on campus after such proposed sale or distribution has been registered and approved by the appropriate officials and offices of the university as specified in Article V, C. above. Any application for registration and Request for Use of Facilities shall include, but not be limited to the name of the applicant; the name of the organization, the date, time, duration and location of the proposed sale or distribution, and the number of participants.

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Green Light Policies
  • Catalog: Policies and Procedures- Disciplinary Offenses

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: June 28, 2016

    Conduct Dangerous to Self or Others. Causing physical harm to any person (including oneself); endangering the health or safety of any person (including oneself); engaging in conduct that causes a reasonable person to fear harm to his/her health or safety; or making an oral or written statement that an objectively reasonable person hearing or reading the statement would interpret as a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.

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  • Student Arrested By East Tennessee State University Police for ‘Civil Rights Intimidation’

    October 3, 2016

    Last week, East Tennessee State University (ETSU) freshman Tristan Rettke was arrested by campus police and charged with a felony under Tennessee’s Civil Rights Intimidation statute after confronting peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in the ETSU free speech area. Rettke’s act—dressing in a gorilla mask and attempting to hand bananas to the protesters in an attempt to “provoke” them—has to have been intended to be offensive. But, as the ACLU of Tennessee’s executive director observes, the First Amendment precludes the criminal charge against Rettke. It likewise would have precluded ETSU from formally disciplining Rettke had he not voluntarily withdrawn from […]

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  • Tennessee Bill to Punish UT for Sex Week Becomes Law

    May 23, 2016

    For several years, the Tennessee legislature has threatened to take action against the University of Tennessee (UT) for allowing students to conduct an annual “Sex Week” on campus. Now the state legislature has followed through on its misguided threat by passing HB 2248, which states: State funds shall not be expended by the University of Tennessee to promote the use of gender neutral pronouns, to promote or inhibit the celebration of religious holidays, or to fund or support sex week. In addition to prohibiting the use of state funds to support Sex Week, the bill also cuts the budget of […]

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  • ETSU, Brute?

    June 8, 2012

    Okay, it’s a terrible Shakespearean pun. But as bad a pun as this blog post’s title is, it’s still nowhere near as disappointing as the state of free speech at East Tennessee State University (ETSU).   The basic story is that as part of a “civility week,” the Student Government Association created T-shirts with various slurs on the front and the message “I am more than a label. Think. Live. Respect.” on the back. The T-shirt campaign was quite clearly a campaign to combat stereotyping. Nevertheless, the ETSU administration wasn’t so thrilled with the shirts, and quickly imposed heavy-handed censorship. […]

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