NACA® Northeast - Important Dates





Open Dates

Scheduled: Tuesday, September 18, 2018


The New Era of Campus Free Speech and Protests: Tools for Balancing Student Desires, Institutional Impact, and the First Amendment
Category: Webinars

  • Members: All
    Regions: All
    Target Audience: All
    Protests, controversial speech, and contentious events are not new to college campuses, but students are entering college with an increased willingness and eagerness to engage in activism around institutional, local, and global issues ranging from Title IX and divestment to midterm elections and immigration. The Cooperative Institutional Research Program’s (CIRP) described the fall 2016 entering class of first-time, full-time college students as the most polarized cohort in the 51-year history of its American Freshman Survey, with students placing increasing importance on influencing the political structure and social values. In this age of hashtag activism, online petitions, and Facebook events for protests, controversy surrounding a student organization’s event or campus incident can escalate incredibly fast. This presents unique and difficult challenges to the student leaders and members, the general student population, and university administrators. Historically, universities have been open communities, which is described by Ernest Boyer (1990) as “a place where freedom of expression is uncompromisingly protected and where civility is powerfully affirmed” (p. 17). As this notion has diminished on many of our campuses, administrators are put in the position to keep students safe from harm while also ensuring they are exposed to different ideas. The presenters will discuss that, at any level, an inclusive and effective administrator response that furthers the institution as an open community must include advising, managing up and across, and communication. The presenters, a vice president of student affairs and an assistant director of involvement, will provide insights from their distinct administrative perspectives related to enacting this multi-faceted response in a variety of controversial campus situations. This briefing will present abbreviated case studies of recent instances of controversy at presenters’ institutions in order to frame a dynamic explanation of advising and decision-making in these types of situations. The goal of this session is to challenge participants to think proactively about how they might balance competing priorities and values during a campus controversy in order to foster effective decision-making and advising that is in the best interests of all involved students. In addition to sharing scenarios, the presenters will share a set of practical tools that can be implemented at the participants' institution, including an event briefing template and tips for training staff and students on this topic.

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