Proposed UT Policy Would Clarify Rules On Campus Speakers

Feb 27, 2014

Today, the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees will consider new policies it hopes will clarify people who use the university’s campuses as a platform for expression.

The first part of the language approved by the Board of Trustees' Finance and Administration Committee Wednesday evening established criteria for who can use university property, and for what purposes. Members of the general public, for instance, were covered for sporting events, plays, lectures and other occasions.

The proposed policy changes are the result of a lawsuit filed against the university by traveling preacher John McGlone. He filed the suit after he was tossed off UT’s Knoxville campus in 2010. A federal appeals court sided with McGlone, ruling that UT’s policies governing public speakers, adopted in 1969, were too broad to be applied fairly.  The court issued an injunction preventing UT from enforcing the existing policies.

The second set of rules would apply specifically to McGlone's case and similar speakers. People unaffiliated with the university would face limitations on using university property for public demonstrations or expression.

A section of the proposal read, "The University’s property is not open, either by tradition or by University policy, for the general public’s free expression activities, in the sense that many public streets, sidewalks, parks, auditoriums, or meeting rooms are often available in society as public forums for expression."

"Certain streets and sidewalks," along with the university's famous spray paint-encrusted "The Rock," would still be open to non-university personnel for public expression.

The policies also require most outside speakers, such as participants in a debate, speech or panel discussion, to be invited by faculty, university staff or students.

The Board of Trustees is expected to adopt the policy recommendations today.