Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Communication Law Review


This essay examines controversies and exchanges regarding free speech on college and university campuses in the United States. The authors offer an overview of the general discord about free speech and a review of the most current and relevant jurisprudence. Following this, theories of persuasive attack (Benoit and Dorries, 1996; Legge et al., 2012) and persuasive defense (Benoit, 1995) are used as a lens to characterize the topoi (opportunities for argument) from which attempts to limit or protect campus free speech proceed. Analysis points to future conflicts centered on viewpoint neutrality versus a compelling interest in protecting listeners from potentially harmful speech. While this hardly breaks new ground per se in terms of the viewpoint neutrality standard, the increasing concerns of advocacy groups and administrators in providing for more welcoming environments raise the specter of an augmented “compelling governmental interest” in equality and order which could weigh more heavily in censorship arguments. Finally, the most substantial contribution of this article is its delineation of a new method for identifying potential Constitutional arguments via established theories of communication.


First published in Communication Law Review, volume 23, issue 1 (2023): 71-100.

The authors hold copyright to this work.

Included in

Communication Commons