Tennessee Tries to Bully Berry College



According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Tennessee is in court right now arguing that the billboard Berry College put up here in Middle Tennessee is the equivalent of "operating a physical campus in the state," and thus "under Tennessee law, the out-of-state college needed to register as an educational institution in Tennessee — paying a hefty fee in the process — or face stiff fines."

I almost don't know what to say in the face of this, because it's so hilariously stupid. I'm just imagining the lawyer who has to argue for the state that a billboard is the same as a campus. How does he look himself in the mirror?

Berry College is arguing that Tennessee is limiting its speech by trying to charge it $20,000 a year for the "privilege" of having its billboard "campus" in our state and that Tennessee is violating the commerce clause. Meanwhile, Berry insinuates it's racking up $500 a day in fines.

But I'd like to invite Berry College to embrace the "billboard as campus" standard. For one, now Berry can say that it's got a campus of 26,000 contiguous acres and a satellite campus here. Shoot, they could go ahead and ask for brave volunteers to attend classes on the billboard. They could attach themselves to the billboard with safety rigging.

Now, Berry is a Christian school, so I certainly wouldn't suggest that they hang, say, blown-up stills from The Human Centipede in the Film Studies class that could meet at their Billboard Campus. But I would suggest Tennessee think about what kinds of things a private university can do on its campus that the state can't regulate and then ask itself whether it wants those things done on a billboard. If there are some things we might not want done on a billboard, maybe we ought not treat it as the equivalent of a college campus.

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