Ideas for Campus Leaders Facing Protest

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Campus life is all about exploring, learning, and becoming.  Those conversations can be difficult.  HLG is here to help through those difficult discussion.  In the meantime, here are a few ideas and tips for campus leaders, who are boldly stepping forward to create a safe, diverse conversations.

    1. Nancy Rogers, former Dean and former Ohio Attorney General
    2. Noel March, Director Maine Community Policing Institute, University of Maine at Augusta; former U.S. Marshall

An overview of the video

Noel March, Director Maine Community Policing Institute, University of Maine at Augusta; former U.S. Marshall

In the time leading up to, and after, the 2021 inauguration, Noel March offered advice on how campus leaders can prepare for these unprecedented times. Free speech must be allowed on college campuses of course, but there are ways to limit potential violence and vandalism.

As a way to prepare the campus community, as well as the community at large, Unified Command has outlined how colleges and universities can prepare for potential events in a short amount of time. By bringing all stakeholders together – both on campus and the community, you are able to present a unified message of communication, plan, and preparation of incidents of violence or destruction that may take place.

Campus leaders have the ability to limit where demonstrations or protests can be held. Access can be denied to certain spaces or buildings on campus, but there must be an area where the people may hold demonstrations. These events should be done by permit and held in conjunction with the city or town the school is located if applicable.

Other planning – such as due diligence and risk management decisions – must be videoed, documented, or otherwise recorded. Advances in technology make it so anyone is able to receive up-to-the-minute reports electronically. Open lines of communication should be available for faculty, staff, students, parents, and others in the community. According to March, transparency is critical.

Colleges, universities, and other educational institutions have long been havens for political and philosophical conflict. We have processes in place and are more accustomed to these situations than other communities. So let’s use that experience to our advantage.

Nancy Rogers, former Dean and former Ohio Attorney General

It’s important to remember your preparation as well as the preparation of everyone else in the community when it becomes apparent protest or demonstrations are inevitable.

You want to be able to do several things all at the same time. You’ll want a list of who’s going to contact those that feel the most targeted, a list of counseling options that are quickly available, and how they will be offered. A list of people who will be in the room when these decisions are made.

A public statement should be drafted in advance of any demonstration. Both for your purposes and for those that may want to join you for joint statements before or after an event. These could be student groups, alumni, and so on. It’s important this statement contains content that everyone can agree on and make simultaneously or in a joint statement.

Also, consider those that may not be part of a demonstration, but will be affected by it. What can you prepare for the students that might be feeling confused or otherwise emotionally conflicted? Webinars offer an immediate way to explain to students how they can channel those feelings into something constructive. Prepare faculty members for possible roles they may play, too.

In addition to preparing for what’s coming up, you should have ideas for what to offer students before and after a divisive event. This can be a time for presenting to students something positive, hopeful. A time to put a spotlight on the heroes of these situations, first responders that divert attackers, the courts doing their duties, the media risking themselves to tell the stories, and so on.

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