Tribalism on Campus: Factions, iGen and the Threat to Free Speech

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The American college campus is potentially the quintessential marketplace of ideas–the ideal locale for the free and open exchange of concepts and viewpoints, discussion and debate, and the discovery and sharing of knowledge. The setting, however, has not always materialized in that idyllic fashion. Speech freedom on campus, while challenged over time, is being tested by unique influences in the twenty-first century. Now, speakers are disinvited or shouted down, with violent protests sometimes erupting. Fear of trauma abridges classroom discussion. As the nation tribalizes, so do college students–members of iGen, psychologically fragile and raised in a culture of “safetyism.” This article examines the interconnectedness of these issues. It also invokes factions–the tribalism of America’s founding era–and illustrates how James Madison’s approach to control factionalism can be applied to the free speech challenge on the contemporary campus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-586
Number of pages48
JournalCommunication Law and Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Law


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