Most institutions experiencing protests or demonstrations focus narrowly on responding to activists and supporting administrators on the front lines. However, campus activism affects more than just the immediate participants. It affects the greater student body, the broader campus community, and even external stakeholders. Each of these constituencies has specific questions and concerns, requiring institutional attention when responding to activism on campus.
Alumni and Friends
“What’s happening with those activists on campus? How is the university responding?”
“I’m not interested in supporting an institution that ignores students’ opinions and rights to protest.”
Prospective Students and Families
“During campus visits, parents are asking what we are doing to keep their students safe.”
Greater Student Body
General Student Body
“What does this mean for how the campus will treat peole like me?”
“I don’t care if they protest. I just want to go to class.”
Students with Opposing Views
“I can’t believe the university is going to let them protest this speaker on campus.”
Broader Campus Community
Faculty and Staff
“How should I address these issues with my students?”
“How can I balance my own opinions with teaching and supporting my students?”
“What can be done about the issues that students care about?”
“How will the interactions between our students and administrators impact our reputation?”
During an outburst of activism, it is important to address the questions and concerns of the broader campus community and external constituencies. To develop a communication plan, institutions shouldn’t wait until they are in the moment. EAB recommends that institutional leaders create a blueprint that can be tailored as the situation unfolds. The questions below are designed to help identify key stakeholders at your institution who need to be better informed about campus activism and develop an action plan to determine who will communicate with these groups and what information they need to know.
- Who are the people beyond frontline activists and responders who should be better informed about campus activism?
- Who is the point person for communicating with each of these constituencies? Should that person change based on the potential cause or movement?
- If an outburst of activism occurs, who will coordinate communications across point people to ensure consistent talking points and messaging?
- What information and key messages do each of these unique constituencies need to know?
- What channels should be used to communicate this information broadly and to specific groups?
With respect to campus activism…
Who needs to be aware of what’s happening?
- Administrative assistant
- Statewide system officers
Who needs to be able to educate external stakeholders?
- Admissions representatives
- Alumni relations and development staff
- Government relations staff
Who needs to understand how it might affect their daily roles and responsibilities?
- General student body
- Administrators and staff
Cheat Sheet for Talking about Campus Activism with External Stakeholders
Campus Activism Internal Briefing
Sample Categories and Questions
Short summary of the activism topic
Understanding the Issue
Brief explanation about:
• What students are asking for or demonstrating about and why
• What is already happening at the institution that might address
Articulating the University’s Response
Brief explanation of the institution’s response strategy so far
Explanation of what the institution expects to do moving forward
Recent Top-of-Mind Topics For Activists On Campus
What is important to activists advocating for this cause right now?
Who should administrators/staff contact for more information?
Who should external constituencies contact for more information?
Who to contact with information about new activists interested in this topic?