How is your campus preparing for disruptive events ahead of the 2020 election?

Expert Insight

How is your campus preparing for disruptive events ahead of the 2020 election?

Since October, over 30 colleges and universities have been participating in EAB’s Student Affairs Forum Collaborative, a community preparing for increased student activism and campus flashpoints as we near the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

How your peers prepare for controversial events

Part 1 of the Collaborative focused on preparing for controversial campus events. The Collaborative kicked off with a webconference on How to Mitigate the Impact of Controversial Campus Events. The session, which can be viewed on-demand, included a Q&A with expert practitioners Tim Miller, Vice President for Student Affairs at James Madison University, and Anne Graham, Assistant Director of Student Involvement and Greek Life at The George Washington University.

Tim and Anne shared their experiences preparing for controversial events and we discussed EAB’s controversial events template, which can be used as a first step to help frontline staff identify potentially controversial events and coordinate cross-campus planning.

Participants asked questions about preparing for controversial events such as: When you communicate about controversial events, how do you decide who speaks on behalf of the university?

  • Who do you charge for additional security when high-profile speakers are invited to campus? The sponsoring student group?
  • How do you set expectations with student groups or advisors to determine whether an event needs to be cut short, rescheduled, or canceled?

In November, student affairs team members at partner institutions reconvened in virtual small working groups to discuss their progress adapting the template to their own campuses. Participants brainstormed with peers about ideas for implementation and made updates to their templates in the moment based on live comments from colleagues. Participants pointed out that the template can be used not just for potentially disruptive events, but as a tool to strengthen cross-campus coordination for a variety of events.  

What’s next for the Collaborative

If you missed Part 1, it’s not too late to join the Collaborative. We will be reconvening for Part 2 starting in January. Part 2 will take you through a process to audit and update your institution’s free speech policy. In addition to a second expert panel, we’ll host online discussions and a poll to benchmark free speech policy trends.

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