University of Tennessee – Knoxville

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

Thank University of Tennessee – Knoxville for its commitment to free speech.

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
  • Student Handbook: Student Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: August 29, 2018

    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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  • Clarification from University of Tennessee Regarding Bias Incident Policy

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: August 29, 2018

    [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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  • Bias Education and Response: Bias Incident Definitions

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: August 29, 2018

    Any 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: August 29, 2018

    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.

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  • Student Handbook: Campus Policies & Procedures

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression, Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: August 29, 2018

    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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  • Office of Information Technology: Acceptable Use Policy

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: August 29, 2018

    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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  • 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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