Am I Free to Speak, Here? Student Perceptions of Free Speech and Belonging




King-Kostelac, Amelia Lynn

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This qualitative case study utilizes a nested research design, including both survey and interview data, and a campus ecology framework to analyze students' perceptions of free speech and sense of belonging at a single institution in South Central Texas. The recent conflict on campuses surrounding free speech is indicative of deep tension surrounding how to create an inclusive campus community in which all students can feel safe, validated and thrive. This study contributes to understanding how students navigate free speech rights, and the degree to which students perceive these rights as being distributed equitably to different student demographics. Findings indicate that, while students have positive factors contributing to sense of belonging, broader social tensions surround free speech and hate speech create tensions impacting how and whether students choose to engage in free speech activities on campus.


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Campus ecology, First Amendment Law, Higher Education Law, Sense of Belonging



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies