University of Memphis

Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 6th Circuit

Tell University of Memphis to revise its speech policies by filling out this form.

Speech Code Rating

University of Memphis 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.

  • University of Memphis: Student Newspaper Budget Cut Over Content

    August 31, 2012

    In May 2012, the University of Memphis’ Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC) reduced funding for the student newspaper The Daily Helmsman by $25,000, a one-third decrease from the campus publication’s previous funding levels. After concerns were raised about the cuts, SAFAC chair and Dean of Students Stephen H. Petersen questioned “whether the paper is really serving the students of the campus,” and SAFAC member and Student Government Association President Tyler DeWitt made similar content-based statements as reported in the press. FIRE wrote to UM President Shirley C. Raines in August 2011, explaining how the funding cuts violated the Helmsman’s First Amendment […]

    » Read More
Yellow Light Policies
  • Access to and Use of Campus Property and Facilities: Posting of Signs/Banners

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: September 11, 2018

    2. Posting of Signs/Banners

    The placement of signs, banners, posters, and other materials on campus is limited to University departments and activities, registered campus organizations and others as approved pursuant to these guidelines.

    The University retains the right to control and approve the time, manner, and place for all signs, banners, posters, and other materials.

    Signs, banners, posters, and other materials may only be used to provide general information, promote and advertise an on-campus activity or event, advertise student elections and candidates, or serve as a temporary direction or location of an activity or event on campus.

    » Read More

  • Access to and Use of Campus Property and Facilities: Access to Facilities & Prioritized Users

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes
    Last updated: September 11, 2018

    A. Access to Facilities & Prioritized Users

    The use of University of Memphis facilities is intended solely for uses consistent with the advancement and orderly administration of the University’s educational mission for the benefit of students, staff, and affiliated entities.

    1. Access to and use of campuses, facilities, and property of University is restricted to the University, University administration for official functions, normal educational activities, affiliated individuals/entities, and invited or sponsored guests of the University except as specifically provided by this policy, or when part or all of a campus, its buildings or facilities are open to the general public for a designated time and purpose.

    2. University shall set forth the process, and requirements, pursuant to which designated campus properties and/or facilities may be accessed for other than official University use.

    3. University shall designate certain facilities as available for rent to the general public at market rates, where the length/frequency of occupancy/use of campus facilities, or the nature of a particular building, facility or property or a particular purpose makes such agreements appropriate. Such lease/rental agreements are not covered by this policy and will be executed subject to appropriate TBR and University policies and guidelines governing the lease of TBR or University property, including, but not limited to, TBR Policy No. 1:03:02:10 and TBR Guideline B-026.

    4. Access/Use of campus property or facilities, other than for those scheduled for official University, administrative and/or normal educational purposes, shall be through a process of application, review, and administrative approval as established by University consistent with this policy.

    5. Application for use of campus facilities or property may be filed with the Office of Conference Planning and Operations (CPO). For applications for conferences and/or special events, please contact CPO to discuss pricing, space needs, and associated services. CPO can be reached at (901) 678- 5000 or visit their website at

    6. University sets the priority to individuals or groups use of campus facilities and/or property, consistent with University mission(s). Highest priority shall always be given to administrative and educational uses.

    7. Affiliated entities may apply to obtain permission for the repeated use of a particular campus facility or space to conduct regular meetings using campus facilities or property without requiring repeated application and approval for each occurrence of the event if the meetings are limited to members of the organization.

    8. Faculty and/or affiliated entities may extend invitations to uncompensated, unaffiliated guest speakers for regular class sessions and/or meetings, without prior application where attendance at the class session or meeting will be limited to members of the class or affiliated entity and where no fee or compensation from state funds will be paid to the speaker and no conflict exists with existing University contracts.

    9. University requires that access to or use of campus facilities or property by affiliated entities and affiliated individuals for an event other than a regular meeting of its membership that will include an invited guest speaker and/or be open to persons outside group membership be made through the procedures established pursuant to this policy. The sponsoring entity will be responsible for the conduct of both the speaker and non-affiliated guests at the event as well as for compliance with all laws, TBR and University rules or policies while present on campus or using campus facilities or property. An application for such access or use of campus facilities or property must clearly set forth the identities of both the affiliated individual/entity filing/sponsoring the application as well as the non-affiliated entity being sponsored. The application will be subject to the same procedures and regulations applicable to all applications for use of campus facilities.

    10. University may permit non-affiliated entities/individuals, conditioned on sponsorship by an affiliated entity or individual, to apply for use of, or access to, locations on campus specifically identified by University.

    11. University shall identify one (1) or more areas or facilities on campus for which non-affiliated entities/individuals, may apply for use or access individually, without sponsorship from an affiliated individual/entity. Such applications shall be limited to those locations on campus specifically identified in institutional policy for access/use by unaffiliated individuals/entities. Such applications shall be subject to the same procedures and requirements.

    12. The application of this policy and all University policies are limited to one (1) time only events, short term, intermittent, and/or repeat use of campus facilities where access/use of facilities/property are permitted without an associated rental/lease or fee. Such uses shall be limited to circumstances where University does not actually, or effectively, cede occupancy or control of any University property. Approval for repeated or intermittent use of any facility or property pursuant to this policy may not exceed four (4) months in length and may only be renewed or repeated after review to determine that such use does not conflict with a University need, or another request for access/use of the facility/space by another eligible person/entity.

    13. In all cases where an application for access or use of campus facilities or property is approved, such use will be subject to the execution of an appropriate written agreement regarding the conditions applicable to the approved access/use, which shall include, but not be limited to, the terms and conditions set forth in this policy.

    14. University permits access to and use of facilities consistent with the requirements of T.C.A. §8-50-1001. University may require that meetings, or other gatherings, conducted pursuant to this statutory provision be subject to an application for use pursuant to this policy, for the sole purpose of ensuring that administrative, educational, and/or workplace functions are not interrupted. Institutional policy may permit repeated access, pursuant to this provision, without repeated application.

    C. Application & Permitting Process

    The policies and procedures related to the application for access/use of campus property/facilities shall include the following:

    1. Application(s) for access to, or use of, campus facilities or property submitted in writing at least five (5) working days in advance of the proposed use (excluding weekends and holidays) to Director Conference Planning and Operations. Where an application for an event involving an outside speaker involves payment of a total fee and/or expenses in excess of $2,500.00 from University funds, the request must be submitted at least twenty (20) working days prior to the date of the proposed speaking engagement.

    2. The President, or designee, shall approve applications for registration filed less than five (5) working days, twenty (20) days in the case of a speaker paid from University funds, before the event, if it is determined that the use of property requested can be reasonably accommodated and that adequate cause exists for late filing of the application for registration. Approval of late applications shall be within the sole discretion of the President, or designee. The decision of such official will be final.

    3. Written notice of approval or disapproval of the application for use of campus property or facilities shall be provided. Such notice shall be provided to the applicant within a reasonable time from the date an application is submitted.

    4. At a minimum, notices of approval/disapproval will be made available at the office of the designated campus official or other approved form of notice, e.g., electronic delivery. It shall be the responsibility of the applicant to obtain notice of the approval or denial of any application submitted pursuant to this policy.

    5. Notices of disapproval shall include a statement of the basis for disapproval.

    6. Any denial of a request to access/use campus facilities and/or property shall be based solely on factors related to reasonable regulations in light of the University’s mission and the nature of the facility or property requested and rendered in a content/viewpoint neutral manner.

    7. The various considerations potentially leading to a denial of an application shall include, at minimum, the following:

    (b) Frequency of previous use during an academic period in comparison to that of a contemporaneous applicant,
    (c) Use of the property or facilities requested would be impractical due to scheduled usage prior to or following the requested use, or due other extenuating circumstances,(d) The applicant or sponsor of the activity has not provided accurate or complete information required on the application for registration,
    (e) The applicant or sponsor of the activity has been responsible for violation of institutional policy during a previously registered use of campus property or facilities,
    (f) The applicant has previously violated any conditions or assurances specified in a previous registration application,

    (k) The activity conflicts with existing contractual obligations of the University,

    D. General Conditions for Use of Property or Facilities

    3. Sound amplification equipment may be used only when prior approval has been requested and approved by the appropriate official taking into account the University’s mission and the nature of the facility or property requested, location, time of day. Sound amplification is not permitted in the unassigned areas.

    » Read More

  • Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: Disorderly Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: September 11, 2018

    (c) Disorderly Conduct. Any individual or group behavior which is abusive, obscene, lewd, indecent, violent, excessively noisy, disorderly, or which unreasonably disturbs institutional functions, operations, classrooms, other groups or individuals (e.g. public urination/defecation, participation in a disruptive or coercive demonstration);

    » Read More

  • Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: Abuse of Computer Resources and Facilities

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: September 11, 2018

    (bb) Abuse of Computer Resources and Facilities. Misusing and/or abusing campus computer resources including, but not limited to the following:

    (5)  Use of computing resources and facilities to send abusive or obscene correspondence;

    » Read More

  • Tennessee Board of Regents – Policy 3:01:01:00 [Student Organizations – Recognition]

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes
    Last updated: September 11, 2018

    III. General Policies on Student Organizations

    A. No student organization may carry on any activity on the campus of an institution or school unless the organization has been officially registered by the institution or school.

    » Read More

  • Access to and Use of Campus Property and Facilities: Bulletin Boards/Posting

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: September 11, 2018

    Bulletin Boards/Posting

    a. University may establish bulletin boards or approved areas for posting for specific uses and/or entities,
    b. University may identify individual boards/areas and specify or limit the authorized uses and/or entities for such boards/areas as well as the types of materials which may be posted on a board or area, the maximum size and duration of any notice, and any other special conditions on use,
    c. Such limits shall be conspicuously posted on each board or posting area, and shall control the use of the board when posted,
    d. University requires prior approval for the use of any or all bulletin boards or posting areas on campus, and if required, the name of the official authorized to approve use of the board shall be posted on the board. Use of a board may be denied on the basis of one or more of the following:
    (i) The person or group is not authorized to use the board in question;
    (ii) The material is not the type authorized for the board in question, or fails to meet any special conditions as posted on the board;
    (iii) The material is obscene or otherwise violates any federal or state law or regulation of University; or
    (iv) There is insufficient space available for the material on the board in question due to the previous posting of other materials,
    e. Areas not specifically identified and/or authorized for posting are not available for such purpose for any individual or entity, whether affiliated or unaffiliated,
    f. Exceptions to this policy can be made upon approval of the Vice President of Business and Finance.

    » Read More

  • Institutional Student Housing Policies For The University of Memphis

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: September 11, 2018

    III Policies and Conduct – Students must comply will all University of Memphis published rules including the Code of Student Conduct. Residents must also comply with all federal, state and local laws in addition to the following housing policies:

    c) Personal Conduct

    7. Rowdy, boisterous, offensive, obscene or disorderly behavior is not permitted. This includes any behavior considered to be aggressive or threatening to others.

    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • Tennessee Board of Regents – Policy 3:02:04:00 [Student Rights and Freedoms]

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: September 11, 2018

    A. Academic institutions exist for the transmission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, the development of students, and the general well-being of society. Free inquiry and free expression are indispensable to the attainment of these goals. As members of the academic community, students should be encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth. Institutional procedures for achieving these purposes may vary from campus to campus, but the minimal standards of academic freedom of students outlined below are essential to any community of scholars.

    B. Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The freedom to learn depends upon appropriate opportunities and conditions in the classroom, on the campus, and in the larger community. Students should exercise their freedom with responsibility.

    » Read More

  • Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 11, 2018

    (ee) Harassment. Conduct directed toward another member of the University community that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress. Harassment does not include constitutionally protected activity or conduct that serves a legitimate purpose.

    » Read More

  • Tennessee Board of Regents – Policy 3:01:01:00 [Student Organizations – Membership]

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience
    Last updated: September 11, 2018

    C. No student organization shall deny membership to any person on the basis of age, race, sex, religion, handicap or national origin, provided that social fraternities and sororities may have sex restricted membership, subject to the following exceptions:

    1. No TBR institution that grants recognition to any student organization shall discriminate against or deny recognition to a student organization, or deny to a student organization access to programs, funding, or facilities otherwise available to another student organization, on the basis of:
      a. The religious content of the organization’s speech including, but not limited to, worship; or
      b. The organization’s exercise of its rights pursuant to subsection 2.
    2. A religious student organization may determine that the organization’s religious mission requires that only persons professing the faith of the group and comporting themselves in conformity with it qualify to serve as members or leaders.

    » Read More

At present, FIRE does not maintain information on this school's policies.
  • University of Memphis Professor Confuses Vandalism with Free Speech

    February 18, 2014

    Today the University of Memphis’ student newspaper The Daily Helmsman has an article about an art professor who feels he is being penalized for his criticism of the university. According to the Helmsman: An art professor who has been an outspoken critic of the University of Memphis’ administration said he was threatened with criminal prosecution and the loss of his faculty senate seat for stenciling messages on University buildings over winter break. Cedar Nordbye, associate professor, accused University administrators of harassing him for exercising his right to free speech. An artist by profession, Nordbye used acrylic ink to stencil the […]

    » Read More
  • University of Memphis Slashes Student Newspaper’s Funding [VIDEO]

    January 23, 2014

    On most college campuses, the student newspaper is entrusted with reporting on issues important to the campus community and with holding powerful campus authorities accountable. But after the student newspaper at the University of Memphis found its budget slashed by $25,000 because the student government and university administration didn’t like the paper’s critical, investigative reporting on their activities, The Daily Helmsman’s role as a campus watchdog was threatened. Chelsea Boozer was editor-in-chief of the Helmsman when the paper’s budget was cut in May 2012. In FIRE’s latest video, Boozer talks about the events leading up to the paper’s funding cut and how the actions taken by […]

    » Read More
  • Liberty Requires Tough Choices: The Student Funding Dilemma

    July 31, 2013

    Kanisha Parthasarathy is a FIRE summer intern. Allocating money to student groups is a tricky game. For many colleges, the amount of money given to groups is not increasing at the same rate as the number of student groups vying for recognition and funding. Funding boards usually solve this problem by creating guidelines to determine how much money a student group gets. The problem arises when these rules are applied without viewpoint neutrality, a requirement for public colleges’ funding boards established by the Supreme Court in Rosenberger v. Rectors of the University of Virginia (1995) and Board of Regents of the […]

    » Read More
  • Report Details First Amendment Violations Against ‘Helmsman’ and Promises Future Changes

    September 18, 2012

    We’ve kept Torch readers updated on the free speech case involving the University of Memphis (UM) student newspaper The Daily Helmsman, which had $25,000 cut from its funding through a process that strongly suggested the involvement of viewpoint discrimination by the student government body responsible for distributing funding from student activity fees. Fortunately, the sum of the on-record comments and documented exchanges in which the content of the Helmsman was criticized convinced UM of the impropriety of its funding decision, and the Helmsman‘s funding was restored.  FIRE has since received a copy of the results of the investigation conducted by […]

    » Read More
  • Funding for ‘The Daily Helmsman’ Restored

    September 4, 2012

    As Torch readers may have already noted, FIRE is pleased to report a successful resolution to the funding dispute for The Daily Helmsman at the University of Memphis (UM). FIRE has been following this case closely since it first began in May, when UM’s Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC) cut the Helmsman’s funding by $25,000. According to several reports, this funding cut was motivated by troubling viewpoint discrimination on behalf of the SAFAC. Both former Student Government Association President Tyler DeWitt and SAFAC Chair Stephen H. Petersen were recorded (in DeWitt’s case, in multiple print venues) expressing their displeasure […]

    » Read More
  • ‘Memphis Flyer’ Chronicles ‘Helmsman’s’ First Amendment Battles

    August 17, 2012

    Recently the Student Press Law Center publicized the struggles of The Daily Helmsman, the University of Memphis (UM) student newspaper which has had numerous wrangles with the university administration, many involving disputes over the release of public records (including for a rape committed on the UM campus). Most recently The Daily Helmsman saw its funding cut by $25,000 by UM’s Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee, which wasn’t shy about its reasons for doing so. According to the SPLC’s reporting: Helmsman editors said they have been told by several committee members — including student government representatives and university administrators — that […]

    » Read More
  • University of Memphis Student Fee Board Only Funds Speech it Likes

    August 1, 2012

    The Student Press Law Center is reporting on a ridiculous situation at the University of Memphis. Memphis’s student-run Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC) has voted to reduce the funding for the student newspaper The Daily Helmsman by $25,000, or one-third of its previous funding. Here’s the kicker: Helmsman editors said they have been told by several committee members — including student government representatives and university administrators — that the cuts are due to growing displeasure with the newspaper’s content. If this is true, it represents a grave First Amendment violation. If the University of Memphis, a public institution, wanted […]

    » Read More