Policies and Procedures Manual

Chapter 1: System of Governance

01:13:00   Freedom of Speech and Expression

Related Policies and Guidelines

TBR Policy 1.03.02.60 Freedom of Speech and Expression

TBR Policy 3.02.04.00 Student Rights and Freedoms

NeSCC Policy 03:05:01 Student Rights and Freedoms

NeSCC Policy 03:05:10 Student Complaints and Compliments

Northeast State Community College is committed to preserving students’ fundamental constitutional right to free speech in accordance with Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) Policy 1.03.02.60 Freedom of Speech and Expression and with TCA § 49-7-2401 The Campus Free Speech Protection Act (2018).

Northeast State protects the lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, while providing students the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, learn, and discuss any issue, subject to constitutional time, place, and manner restrictions or other measures that do not violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Article I, Section 19 of the Tennessee Constitution.

General Principles

  1. Students have a fundamental constitutional right to free speech.
  2. Northeast State shall be committed to giving students the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, learn, and discuss any issue, subject to constitutional time, place, and manner restrictions.
  3. Northeast State shall be committed to maintaining a campus as a marketplace of ideas for all students and all faculty in which the free exchange of ideas is not to be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the institution's community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical, or wrong-headed.
  4. It is for an institution’s individual students and faculty to make judgments about ideas for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress free speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose.
  5. It is not the proper role of an institution to attempt to shield individuals from free speech, including ideas and opinions they find offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical, or wrong-headed.
  6. Although Northeast State should greatly value civility and mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect shall never be used by an institution as a justification for closing off the discussion of ideas, however offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical, or wrong-headed those ideas may be to some students or faculty.
  7. Although all students and all faculty are free to state their own views about and contest the views expressed on campus, and to state their own views about and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on the institution's campus, they may not substantially obstruct or otherwise substantially interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, an institution has a responsibility to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation and protect that freedom.
  8. Through shared governance with its faculty, an institution may determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it may be taught and graded, and who may be admitted to the institution as a student.
  9. Northeast State shall be committed to providing an atmosphere that is most conducive to speculation, experimentation, and creation by all students and all faculty, who shall always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, and to gain new understanding.
  10. The primary responsibility of faculty is to engage an honest, courageous, and persistent effort to search out and communicate the truth that lies in the areas of their competence.
  11. Although faculty are free in the classroom to discuss subjects within areas of their competence, faculty shall be cautious in expressing  personal views in the classroom and shall be careful not to introduce controversial matters that have no relationship to the subject taught, and especially matters in which they have no special competence or training and in which, therefore, faculty's views cannot claim the authority accorded statements they make about subjects within areas of their competence; provided, that no faculty will face adverse employment action for classroom speech, unless it is not reasonably germane to the subject matter of the class as broadly construed, and comprises a substantial portion of classroom instruction.
  12. Northeast State shall maintain the generally accessible, open, outdoor areas of its campus as traditional public forums for free speech by students.  This does not mean that those areas must be equally available to non- students.
  13. Northeast State shall not confine students' free speech to certain areas of the campus, sometimes known as "free speech zones," or otherwise create policies implying that students' free speech is restricted to particular areas of campus.
  14. Northeast State shall not deny student activity fee funding to a student organization based on the viewpoints that the student organization advocates.
  15. Northeast State shall not establish permitting requirements that prohibit spontaneous outdoor assemblies or outdoor distribution of literature, although an institution may maintain a policy that grants members of the college community the right to reserve certain outdoor spaces in advance.
  16. Northeast State shall not charge students security fees based on the content of their speech, the content of the speech of guest speakers invited by students, or the anticipated reaction or opposition of listeners to speech.
  17. Northeast State shall allow all students and all faculty to invite guest speakers to campus to engage in free speech regardless of the views of guest speakers.
  18. Northeast State shall not dis-invite a speaker invited by a student, student organization, or faculty member because the speaker's anticipated speech may be considered offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical, or wrong-headed by students, faculty, administrators, government officials, or members of the public.
  19. Students do not have the right to disrupt previously scheduled or reserved activities occurring in a traditional public forum.
  20. Northeast State is not required to fund costs associated with student speech or expression.

Within this framework, the College recognizes the individual’s right to freedom from the obstruction or interference with the expression of views that others may reject. This aligns with the following definition of student-on-student harassment found in TCA § 49-7-2406 that provides the context for any related harassment complaints in such matters:

Student-on-student harassment means unwelcome conduct directed toward a person that is discriminatory on a basis prohibited by federal, state, or local law and that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim's access to an educational opportunity or benefit.

Complete policies, procedures, and guidelines related to freedom of speech and expression are available on the TBR website (www.tbr.edu) or by clicking the TBR Policy 1.03.02.60 Freedom of Speech and Expression link.



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Divisional Review Responsibilities Checklist: Institutional Excellence and Student Success

Revision History: Adopted: Jan. 2020; Edited June 2021