University of Tennessee – Knoxville

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

Speech Code Rating

University of Tennessee – Knoxville has been given the speech code rating Green. Green light institutions are those colleges and universities whose policies nominally protect free speech. Read more here.

Green Light Policies
  • Office of Information Technology: Acceptable Use Policy

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: September 12, 2016

    Users WILL NOT:

    Send email chain letters or mass mailings for purposes other than official university business

    Engage in activities that violate state or federal law, a University contractual obligation, or another University policy or rule including but not limited to Human Resources policies and Standards of Conduct for students.

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  • Clarification from University of Tennessee Regarding Bias Incident Policy

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: September 12, 2016

    [T]he policy was not drafted with the intent to punish a student for an act of bias that does not also violate the university’s Standards of Conduct … .

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  • Student Handbook: Freedom of Assembly and Demonstration Policy

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression, Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: September 12, 2016

    Because free inquiry and free expression are indispensable to the attainment of the goals of a university, The University of Tennessee encourages students to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in an independent search for truth. The institution supports the rights of students and other members of The University of Tennessee community to express freely their views for or against actions and opinions with which they agree or disagree.

    1. Student gatherings may be conducted in areas which are generally available to the public, provided such gatherings:
    A. Are conducted in an orderly and peaceful manner.
    B. In no way obstruct vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
    C. Do not interfere with classes, scheduled meetings, events and ceremonies or with other essential processes of the university.
    D. If inside a building, are held in an assigned meeting room

    The distribution of leaflets and handbills and the circulation of petitions on campus shall be free and unhindered. Any material to be distributed should be in accordance with the applicable local, state, and federal laws.

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  • Student Handbook: Student Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 12, 2016

    (6) Harassment, which is defined as unwelcome conduct that is so severe or pervasive, and objectively offensive, that it substantially interferes with the ability of a person to work, learn, live, or participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by the University. In no event shall this rule be construed to discipline a student for speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (e.g., mere insulting or offensive speech).

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  • Bias Education and Response: Bias Incident Definitions

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: September 12, 2016

    An act of bigotry, harassment, intimidation, coercion, or damage to property by known or unknown perpetrators that occurs on UT’s campus or within an area that impacts the UT community and that one could reasonably conclude is directed at a member or a group of the UT community because of that individual’s or group’s actual or perceived age, color, creed, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any combination of these or related factors.

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  • Office of Equity and Diversity: Sexual Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 12, 2016

    Unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

    1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or status in a course, program, or activity;
    2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment or academic decisions (grades, academic progress, internship, etc.) affecting the individual; or
    3. Such conduct substantially interferes with an individual’s work performance, academic performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

    This is a summary of the university’s sexual harassment policy.

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  • New Law Restricts University of Tennessee’s Ability to Support Sex Week

    May 20, 2016

    By Tyler Kingkade at The Huffington Post The University of Tennessee’s flagship campus in Knoxville is now prohibited by state law from supporting a student-organized event called “Sex Week,” after Gov. Bill Haslam (R) allowed a bill to become law on Friday… Read more here.

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  • State’s Anti-Free Speech Bill is Close to Becoming Law

    April 26, 2016

    By Tyler Kingkade at The Huffington Post State legislators are close to defunding the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s diversity office and banning administrators from teaching students about gender neutral pronouns. Student activists, student government members and LGBT advocates are now pressing Tennessee’s Republican governor to prevent that. Read more here.

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  • Tennessee Lawmakers Consider Bill that Could Chill Free Speech

    April 5, 2016

    By Tyler Kingkade at Huffington Post State lawmakers are pushing legislation to prevent the University of Tennessee from ever spending school dollars on student-organized “Sex Week” events… Read more here.

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  • Tennessee Lawmakers Freak Out Over UT-Knoxville’s ‘Sex Week,’ Again

    February 14, 2014

    by Tyler Kingkade at The Huffington Post Republican lawmakers in Tennessee are hellbent on trying to stop students and faculty at the state’s flagship university from attending a series of events called “Sex Week.” Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee, a student group at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, is hosting Sex Week in early March for the second year in a row. Sex Week will feature a series of lectures about sexuality and sexual health, discussions about sexual violence, dance classes, a drag show, an art show and a poetry slam. There will also be a discussion on abstinence, and a forum called “Longterm Intimacy: Commitment […]

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  • 6 of 10 universities can’t figure out 1st Amendment

    December 20, 2012

    by Bob Unruh at WND More than six of 10 colleges and universities across the United States have yet to figure out the First Amendment, because their “speech codes” conflict with the Constitution, according to a new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “FIRE surveyed 409 schools for this report and found that over 62 percent maintain severely restrictive, ‘red-light’ speech codes – policies that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech,” said the executive summary. “That this figure is so large is deeply troubling, but there is good news: for the fifth year in a row, the percentage of schools maintaining […]

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  • MSU, Ole Miss get high marks for free speech

    September 11, 2012

    As college football enters its third week, the Southeastern Conference continues its stranglehold on the national polls, claiming three of the top seven spots in two separate polls.  But it turns out, the SEC has some other rankings to brag about this week.  The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its second annual list of Best Colleges for Free Speech, and FIRE’s top seven list includes, you guessed it, three SEC universities.  Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville may not be the poster children for SEC football, but they are at the […]

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  • Southern schools dominate list of best colleges for free speech

    September 6, 2012

    By Joshua Rhett Miller at Just as college students head off to campus, a list of schools that hold the First Amendment above political correctness is out  – with a slew of Southern schools leading the way. The list, released Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), cites James Madison University, the College of William & Mary, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania for protecting free speech on campus and maintaining policies honoring freedom of expression. “It’s easy for students to get caught up […]

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  • UT recognized for promoting free speech

    May 25, 2011

    Congratulations to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for being named one of the seven best colleges and universities for freedom of speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Free speech is a cornerstone of American democracy. Learning to use it, value it and understand it should be a key component of every higher education experience. UT is joined by Arizona State University, Dartmouth College, The College of William & Mary, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Virginia. FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation based in Philadelphia that is dedicated to upholding individual rights, freedom of […]

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  • The Seven Best Colleges For Free Speech

    May 23, 2011

    by Greg Lukianoff The Huffington Post   View this article at The Huffington Post.

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  • University of Tennessee Investigating Student Accused of Sexual Harassment for Writing Wrong Name on Quiz

    October 11, 2016

    Last week, several news outlets reported that a student at the University of Tennessee (UT) received a zero on a quiz—a grade his professor justified because he viewed an answer as sexual harassment under Title IX. Now he’s being investigated by campus officials after unidentified faculty saw the absurd interpretation being mocked by entertainment website Total Frat Move. How might one violate Title IX on a quiz? The first question on the quiz asked “What is your Lab instructor’s name?” and invited students to “make something good up”—that is, a joke—if they don’t remember his or her name. The student, […]

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  • U. of Tennessee Ends Glenn Reynolds Investigation, Cites First Amendment

    September 27, 2016

    University of Tennessee College of Law (UT Law) Dean Melanie Wilson announced today that law professor and noted Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds will face “no disciplinary action” for his tweet (“Run them down”) about protestors blocking an interstate highway during the recent unrest in Charlotte. I penned a blog entry last week about the tweet, the investigation, and whether Reynolds’ comment was protected speech under the First Amendment (it was). Today, Dean Wilson wrote: Following Professor Glenn Reynolds’s tweet and my public response last week, I began an investigation that included an examination of the facts, policies in the university’s […]

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  • U. of Tennessee “Investigating” Professor for Tweet

    September 23, 2016

    In recent years, colleges and universities have shown a disturbing willingness to punish students and faculty members for Internet postings that, while consisting of constitutionally protected speech, are labeled “violent,” “offensive,” or “harassing” towards some person or group. FIRE has seen many instances of this trend. A common thread in these cases is that, rather than being driven by a sober assessment of the law or commitment to principle, they tend to be driven by a public relations imperative to distance the institution from expression it thinks will be unpopular. That pattern is playing out again this week, as the […]

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  • UT Knoxville Settles Title IX Lawsuit, Nixes Help Finding Lawyers

    July 12, 2016

    Earlier this month, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville settled a Title IX lawsuit brought by eight women who alleged that the processes through which their sexual assault allegations were handled were biased against the complainants and in favor of the student-athlete respondents. The university did not admit to “guilt, negligence or unlawful acts,” but it conceded it provided the names of six local lawyers for accused student-athletes to contact and agreed not to give such information to accused athletes in the future. The lawsuit claimed that the university and athletic staff “acted with deliberate indifference” and “failed to take corrective […]

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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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  • Tennessee Lawmakers, Anti-Porn Advocates Demand Censorship of UT Sex Week

    March 6, 2014

    Some state lawmakers are calling UT’s decision not to shut the event down “unacceptable” and warning that the university’s funding might be affected if the school doesn’t take action. A group of petitioners is even asking UT to institute a system of prior review of Sex Week materials—a grave mistake that would be a disaster for UT, its students, and the First Amendment.

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  • Angry over ‘Sex Week,’ Legislators in Tennessee Attempt to Bar Outside Speakers from Campus

    February 21, 2014

    Hey, state legislators in Tennessee: Quit trying to restrict the voices that students at your public universities are allowed to hear.

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  • FIRE Names Seven Best Schools for Free Speech on ‘Huffington Post’

    May 24, 2011

    PHILADELPHIA, May 24, 2011—Today the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) commends the nation’s seven best colleges and universities for freedom of speech in an article by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff on The Huffington Post. The colleges listed are Arizona State University, Dartmouth College, The College of William & Mary, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and the University of Virginia. “FIRE spends most of its time bringing much-needed attention to the sorry state of free speech for students and faculty on our nation’s campuses,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Today, we wanted to […]

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  • University of Tennessee Acts to Preserve Free Speech on Campus

    April 22, 2010

    The University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK), one of only a handful of schools to receive FIRE’s most favorable “green light” rating for protecting free speech on campus, acted quickly after being contacted by FIRE to revise a new policy that posed a serious threat to student speech. As a result, UTK remains one of FIRE’s “green light” institutions. The university is to be commended for being so responsive to concerns about free expression on campus. In February, FIRE learned that UTK’s policy on Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources had been revised to include a prohibition on “Engag[ing] in activities that […]

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