Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Jeffrey Witsoe




Free Speech, Political Correctness, Multiculturalism, College, Identity Politics, University of Michigan, Union College, Richard Spencer, Liberal, Conservative


Researchers across a diverse spectrum have examined free speech and the relationship between “political correctness” and “multiculturalism.” I have contributed to the current literature by taking an empirical approach to these matters. I sought to answer three questions: What are the cultures of free speech and “political correctness” on college campuses? How do these cultures impact the construction of free speech on college campuses? What is the best path forward for colleges across the United States? To accomplish my research, I took a multifaceted approach that included primary research, observations, and interviews. Two schools: Union College and University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, allowed me to make unique comparisons and contrasts with each other, and in certain instances, with other colleges and universities.

I conclude that there is no singular culture of free speech or “political correctness” that characterizes college campuses across the United States. Instead, I found two distinct perspectives, each of which prevents an impartial judgment by the other. While I initially looked at just political correctness, my work uncovered diverging worldviews; those against political correctness and those in favor of multiculturalism. Ultimately, examining the relationship between free speech and the debate between “political correctness” and “multiculturalism” revealed that free speech is conceptualized based on political affiliation. Those against political correctness believe the ability to offend in an uncensored way is a necessity for free speech on college campuses. Contrarily, multiculturalists believe that society must determine acceptable forms of speech, and failing to do so, results in the censorship of historically marginalized groups. Additionally, the conflicting positions have implications for how colleges and universities should structure classrooms and education. I conclude that though both sides in the debate present defensible arguments, each fails to concede the legitimacy of the opposition’s claims, which causes the controversy seen today on college campuses to persist.