Freedom of Speech, Expression, and Divisive Concepts

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) supports the rights of members of the campus community to freely express their views. The University also recognizes a concurrent obligation to develop policies and procedures which safeguard this freedom, while at the same time maintaining a campus climate that is safe and conducive to academic engagement, preserves the dignity and seriousness of University activities, and secures the rights of all individuals.

Campus Free Speech Protection Act

In May 2017, the Tennessee Legislature passed the Campus Free Speech Protection Act (T.C.A. § 49-7-2401-2408). The law states that all Tennessee public colleges and universities must "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" and that "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." 

Further, the law states that although members of the campus community are free to state their own views and contest what others say, "they may not substantially obstruct or otherwise substantially interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe" and that the University may impose appropriate measures or restrictions, so long as they do not violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or the Constitution of Tennessee. 

In November 2017, the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees adopted the Policy Affirming Principles of Free Speech for Students and Faculty, which affirms the "principles of free speech for students and faculty at The University of Tennessee in accordance with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 19 of the Tennessee Constitution, and the Campus Free Speech Protection Act."

Divisive Concepts Act

In April 2022, the Tennessee Legislature passed the Divisive Concepts in Schools Act (T.C.A. § 49-7-1901-1908). The law defines a divisive concept as ideas or beliefs that claim one race or sex is superior, individuals are inherently privileged or oppressed based on their race or sex, discrimination based on race or sex is justified, and other similar notions that promote division or resentment among people based on race, sex, or other characteristics. The law prohibits all Tennessee public colleges and universities from penalizing or discriminating against students or employees for rejecting divisive concepts, as well as prohibits mandatory training involving such concepts. The law also requires that diversity-related work includes efforts to foster intellectual diversity.

Tennessee Higher Education Freedom of Expression and Transparency Act

In April 2023, the Tennessee Legislature passed the Tennessee Higher Education Freedom of Expression and Transparency Act (T.C.A § 49-7-1907). The law aims to promote freedom of expression and intellectual diversity at Tennessee public colleges and universities. It prohibits institutions from favoring or discriminating against student groups or guest speakers based on their viewpoints, race, creed, or political affiliation. Additionally, it restricts institutions from requiring personal diversity statements for employment or admission and ensures that the job responsibilities of diversity-related employees include promotion of intellectual diversity and support of student academic achievement. The law requires public colleges and universities inform students and employees about these restrictions for compliance purposes.


The Office of the Dean of Students (DOS) and the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) are available to assist students with questions or concerns regarding Freedom of Speech, Expression, and Divisive Concepts at the University. 

Office of the Dean of Students 
University Center, Suite 399
(423) 425-4761
[email protected]

Office of Student Conduct
University Center, Suite 399
(423) 425-4301
[email protected]


To report Divisive Concept concerns, please report online via the UT Compliance Hotline website, call (855) 461-2271, or e-mail [email protected].

Dean of Students

Dean of Students