Governing Campus Speech: A Bottom-Up Approach

Originally published in Society

I review arguments favoring bans on problematic speech (e.g., hate speech) on campus. Contrasting such calls for top-down regulation, I explore the potential for a “bottom-up approach” to campus speech governance to address vexing concerns pertaining to campus speech without violating free speech and academic freedom principles. I examine the political economy and epistemological dynamics inherent within the two forms of governance. I argue that, relative to a centralized top-down approach, a decentralized bottom-up approach to speech governance avoids political dynamics that bend toward the inappropriate use of power. Further, I argue that a bottom-up approach leaves the discursive space contestable, and therefore more open to new discovery and correction. Recognizing that a bottom up approach is no panacea, I also consider open questions and concerns that warrant further inquiry.

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