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    August 2016

    Managing Campus Protest in a Time of Culture Change

    Campus protests around racial equity recently gripped colleges, and many institutions are wondering whether nationwide demonstrations over racially charged killings by police will affect their campuses. To prepare, administrators and presidents should consider the following actions for addressing concerns and reducing the potential for campus unrest.

    Assess the campus racial climate. Colleges should talk with students and employees across campus to understand the issues and select the right corrective actions. Consider using focus groups, one-on-one conversations, or campus forums to elicit feedback. EduRisk’s Student Unrest on Campus: Recommended Preparation and Response provides additional guidance for reviewing the campus climate and identifying areas of concern.

    Hold campus forums to open dialogue on racial issues. Key leaders, including presidents and senior administrators, can show their commitment to a more inclusive campus by holding forums on supporting under-represented students. Campus leaders should give the opening remarks and attend the entire program.

    Create a diversity committee to identify how the institution can be more inclusive. Include student leaders and faculty and staff from a cross-section of departments, such as security, athletics, academic affairs, study abroad, and specific colleges or academic units.

    Determine whether faculty and employees represent student racial demographics. Conduct a statistical analysis to compare the faculty’s racial diversity to the students’, the region, and the state. If a college’s faculty and staff lack diversity, consult with an employment lawyer about appropriate strategies for improvement. Articulate the institution’s reasoning for changing or retaining specific employment practices based on the statistical analysis.

    Modify performance review and recruiting systems to diversify faculty and employees. For example, create minority recruitment and mentorship programs. Consult with legal counsel familiar with employment law.

    Create a diversity officer position in the senior administration to oversee efforts to improve inclusion. Responsibilities may include the creation of a diversity report and implementation of its recommendations, oversight of a diversity task force, and development a campus cultural center.

    Build cultural centers on campus. Cultural centers signify that the institution welcomes different backgrounds and they provide educational resources. For example, many campus cultural centers offer publications, media, art, and speakers to teach the community about the cultural heritage.

    Create and publicize an online or telephone bias reporting system. The institution should investigate complaints and respond to any problems identified.

    Remain responsive on social media. Work with public relations experts to craft a measured and prompt response to the first signs of social media unrest.

    Ensure campus harassment policies do not run afoul of free speech rights. With the help of legal counsel, public institutions should review their harassment policies to ensure free speech rights are not endangered. Also, any private college that has adopted a free speech policy should ensure its anti-harassment practices do not encroach on the policy.

    Provide diversity training to students and employees. While training can impart greater understanding, it also can have adverse effects by focusing on potential liability or judging participants. Program effectiveness is critical. Before implementing a training program, review evidence of its effectiveness.

    Keep the campus community informed. Work with a public relations specialist to communicate with students, faculty, and staff any steps the college has taken to promote racial inclusion. Use multiple tools, such as social media, press releases, and letters from the administration.

    Communicate with campus security and local police about conflict resolution and de-escalation. Ensure that security and local authorities are aligned on supporting the community’s free speech rights and campus safety concerns.

    Sample Letters From Administrators

    Chancellor Randy Woodson, North Carolina State University (July 2016)
    Chancellor Carol L. Folt and Administrators, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (December 2015)

    Sample Faculty Diversity Reports

    Dartmouth College
    Harvard University
    Duke University


    Student Unrest on Campus: Recommended Preparation and Response
    Handling Controversial Speakers and Protests
    “Campus Politics: A Cheat Sheet,” The Atlantic (April 4, 2016)

    By Melanie Bennett, associate risk management counsel


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