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Navigating the New Wave of Student Unrest

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The new wave of student activism at colleges and universities is here to stay. Indeed, it’s likely to intensify due to changing campus demographics and increasingly high expectations from students. Mismanaging the institutional response to activism can bring severe consequences, from enrollment shortfalls, to bad PR, to fundraising declines.

Even institutions that considered themselves quiet campuses have been recently surprised by outbursts of activism, which highlighted the costs of not being prepared to respond. It only takes one viral social media posting or incident to activate students and dramatically change the campus environment.

While student affairs divisions and campus safety offices typically take the lead in responding to campus protests, student activism has an outsized impact with ripples far beyond the individuals protesting on the quad or disrupting events. We tend to focus our time and attention on the protestors and therefore haven’t spent as much time thinking about how to support and engage the broader campus community including donors, alumni, and university friends.

This research looks at campus unrest from the perspective of what advancement leaders need to know and do especially in regard to our alumni and external stakeholders.

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