Tips for communicating with student activists
Make a point to meet with student activists to fully understand their concerns and goals.
Because students are on campus for only a limited amount of time, they often have different expectations and conceptions of progress than administrators. Keep this perspective in mind during your discussions with them.
Students may view administrators as having ultimate authority rather than as part of a complex, often decentralized structure. Explain how colleges and universities are organized, how decisions get made, and how this design benefits them. Make clear the best avenues for them to follow in pursuit of their goals.
If, in conversations with student protesters, it becomes apparent that the university has already addressed their issues, be sure to share this information. Such misunderstandings might signal the need for more regular communication between the administration and the student body.
If the proposed changes are not immediately possible, be open about which aspects of the problem can be addressed and which cannot, and whether alternative or longer-term actions might work.
If students have identified problems that you agree need to be solved, see this as an opportunity to work together. Lend your support and resources to their cause.
KNOW THEIR RIGHTS
Administrators must remember that they have an obligation to balance students’ free speech rights against other aspects of college operations.
Make sure to provide opportunities for lawful protest and counter-speech for students who wish to engage in them.
If student activists are planning—but have not yet orchestrated—a protest, walk them through the ways the university would respond to various tactics. This approach will help them make informed decisions and avoid unnecessary discipline.