House Passes Campus Free Speech Act, Puts Tennessee First in Nation To Protect Academic Freedom in State Law

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On Monday, the House of Representatives passed the Campus Free Speech Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville).  The Senate previously passed the companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) several weeks ago.  The measure has been transmitted to the Governor for his signature.

The bill is said to be the first of its kind in the nation to not only more clearly define the application of the First Amendment on college campuses but also to include state protections for academic freedom in the classroom.

“This is not one of those “model” pieces of legislation.  This is a measure developed here in Tennessee…  This legislation provides a Tennessee solution for our state colleges and campuses,” said Sen. Doug Overbey during his Senate presentation of the bill.

The measure differs from previous bills introduced in the General Assembly this year and in 2016 that were seen as problematic.  Some of these bills were viewed as favoring a certain political philosophy, were not constructed in an unbiased tone, or would put institutions in a situation that would inevitably lead disputes in court.

The Campus Free Speech Protection Act was supported by a number of public higher education institutions, including the University of Tennessee System.  The bill makes Tennessee the first state in the nation to put academic freedom of faculty at public universities in state law.


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