As campus speech codes enjoy a renaissance surrounding microaggressions and trigger warnings, understanding how and whether such speech codes can stand up to constitutional scrutiny is crucial. This project offers a historical overview of the evolution of free speech in U.S. history, with a particular focus on the jurisprudential history of hate speech and the “first wave” of litigation surrounding campus speech codes in the 1980s and ’90s. I use two theoretical frameworks, liberalism and communitarianism, to analyze the judiciary’s response to speech codes and to understand whether that response aligns with either framework. Lastly, I offer three proposals for future consideration of speech codes in the courts, with an emphasis on current speech controversies. My primary research question is this: Have the judiciary’s decisions regarding campus speech codes been more similar to a liberal or a communitarian conception of speech, and should a new approach be considered as colleges move into a new era of speech regulations?


Weaver, Mark

Second Advisor

Moskowitz, Eric


Political Science


Constitutional Law


speech codes, constitutional law, microaggressions, trigger warnings, liberalism, communitarianism

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



© Copyright 2016 Madeleine G. O'Neill