This summer, Education Dive is providing readers with a compilation of stories published during the past year that provide solutions to challenges facing colleges and universities nationwide. Next up — effective ways to handle free speech on campus issues.
6 ways higher ed leaders should consider free speech on campus
A report from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges urges campus leaders to hear out students concerns on campus culture and free speech, in an effort to anticipate and address instances of campus unrest. Among suggestions is the idea that board members ought to know the First Amendment and how free speech rights apply to the campus. Leaders also should fully understand the relationship between freedom of speech and academic rights, and develop policies making it clear free speech aligns with the institution's mission. Click here to read more.
Student engagement prerequisite to free speech on campus, leaders say
To handle controversial speaker visits to campus effectively, administrators can act preemptively via an "engagement team," that includes academic leaders, student affairs, public safety and facilities personnel who can "have a dialogue with students organizing the talk," according to Andrew Martin, dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan. Allowing free speech on campus means working with speech organizers, said Martin, to define the tactical limitations without disrupting students' rights. These include the location for the speech, access to the event and public safety plan that considers if an indoors or outdoors venue can be controlled more effectively. Click here to read more.
Presidents weigh in on student free speech movement
A survey from the Knight Foundation revealed college students' priorities are shifting to favor diversity and inclusion over free speech. The American Council on Education conducted an informal survey of college presidents and found leaders recognize similarities between these results and activity on their campuses. Some presidents shared the need for colleges to do a better job of making students uncomfortable with differing viewpoints, but in a responsible way. “The challenge for colleges and universities is to teach and model modes of vigorous civil discourse and debate, and to educate students about the value and importance of free speech for individuals of all backgrounds,” said James Madison University President Jonathan Alger. Click here to read more.
How leaders can effectively manage controversy while protecting free speech
In her keynote address at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Hollins University President Pareena Lawrence said administrators increasingly confront instances of public-facing controversial incidents where actions or words from campus community members often result in unrest, a public relations nightmare, or even calls for the institution leaders to step down. The challenge in these cases as a leader, Lawrence said, is trying to find that sweet spot at the intersection of upholding the First Amendment rights of campus members, maintaining an environment of inclusiveness, and establishing standards that proactively manage controversy before the potential for escalation — a feat that she said isn't easy. Click here to read more.