Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Michael Sherer

Second Advisor

Dr. Hugh Cowdin

Third Advisor

Dr. Sam Walker


This thesis addresses the research question of whether a private college campus meets the definition of a privately-owned public forum for First Amendment purposes. It relies on an examination of the body of federal case law related to freedom of expression on other types of private property, which can be broadly categorized into cases on company towns, migrant labor camps, shopping malls and multitenant dwellings. Analogies are then drawn between each type of private property and two hypothetical private campuses, a nonresidential seminary and a urban, residential private university. The result is a list of five factors which have been distilled from the case law as defining characteristics for determining whether private property acts as a public forum: 1) physical openness, 2) invitation for public use, 3) the owner's expectation of privacy, 4) similarities to a municipality, and 5) extent of the owner's control over the flow of information on the property. The thesis offers a continuum along which private property can be placed according to the criteria listed above. The research finds support for the possibility of expanding First Amendment rights on private college campuses.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Natatlie J. Straight Hadley November, 1994