Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education

Document Type



This dissertation analyzes the marketplace of ideas analogy, a longstanding force in First Amendment jurisprudence, as it evolves within the same operational contexts as neoliberal economic policy in higher education. To accomplish this, the study focuses on students, the campus population whose activism patterns are distinctively associated with renewed public debate over free speech in university settings. The study combined legal and qualitative research methods to explore a modern campus environment, rife for student dissent, that exists in unresolved tension between the legal underpinnings of the marketplace of ideas analogy and institutional behaviors increasingly linked to neoliberalism. After all: findings from a legal-historical analysis of student speech jurisprudence from 1969-2019, when postured in tandem with a multiple-case study analysis of four campus speaker incidents between 2017-2019, suggest that higher education’s polarized climate is not the result of a free speech ‘crisis,’ an interpretation predominantly employed by conservative lawmakers and student litigants at present. Rather, student dissent patterns on campus could be increasingly interpreted as a consequence of neoliberalism and its influence on operations in the academy. These findings are, relatedly, indicative of a disproportionately focused public and political discourse toward student speech on campus, which I argue will continue to misdiagnose and exacerbate the nature of campus dissent in future operations.



Committee Chair

Blanchard, Joy L.