Freedom of expression is essential to the enterprise of higher education, and therefore is protected and encouraged at Tennessee Technological University. The University has a responsibility to secure the conditions under which free expression can flourish, but groups or individuals using University space are likewise responsible for exercising free expression in keeping with the University’s mission and the goals of its programs and courses, and with due regard for the sensitivities of an audience. The right to free expression includes the right to take exception to particular instances or artifacts of expression. However, this complementary right must be exercised in ways that do not prevent a work or statement from being seen or heard, and must not involve any form of intimidation, defacement, or physical violence. The University will respectfully receive all comments made by individuals or outside agencies, but reserves the right to determine the appropriateness or acceptability of statements, displays, or performances in its facilities or as part of its educational programs.
Oral presentations, workshops, and exhibits or performances of artistic work—paintings, music, theatre, dance, creative writing—on University property or sponsored by the University, must receive prior authorization through an appropriate process. The form of this process depends on the organization or official conducting it, but never involves censorship — i.e., does not authorize or reject the work, statement, or event in question on the basis of its political, religious, sexual, or moral implications. All authorization processes will determine that the work, statement, or event is consistent with the University’s mission;
(if part of a TTU course) addresses one or more of the goals or outcomes listed on the course syllabus;
(if occupying University space) has reserved the space at least 7 calendar days prior to the day when it is to be made public; and
(if potentially controversial) indicates its controversial nature on all advertising and, if not part of a regular course, be offered in a venue where attendance is voluntary.
Potentially Offensive Statements and Art Works
The University recognizes that the exercise of free expression by its very nature may involve ideas and subject matter that are offensive to some observers, who may in turn exercise their own right to free expression by making known their objections to University officials. In responding to such complaints, University officials should stress that the controversial expression has been authorized, according to the criteria above, as mission appropriate and, if part of a course, as consistent with course objectives. If the material in question is not required for a course, the official should note that viewing, listening or attendance is voluntary and that all advance publicity contains appropriate cautionary statements.
Officials should also emphasize that the exhibit/lecture/performance in question is only one instance of a diverse range of artistic styles, subjects, and/or purposes during a given academic year. Such diversity is intended to broaden the audience members’ cultural awareness and to develop their critical, analytical, and interpretive abilities, insofar as in classes and public venues, controversial works or statements become occasions for contrasting points of view to be aired in an environment of civil discourse.
[Approved by the Policy and Oversight Committee, General Education Fund April 4, 2008. Approved by the University Assembly November 19, 2008.]