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Pre-Conference A
Executive Forum: Handling Protests, Controversial Speakers and First Amendment Rights in a University Setting

Sunday, June 24, 2018 | 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Robin Hattersley

Executive Editor
Campus Safety

Vivian Marinelli

Senior Director of Crisis Management Services
FEI Behavioral Health

In a confidential setting, higher education campus public safety chiefs, security directors, emergency managers, student affairs administrators and deans will discuss the challenges they are experiencing with these issues on their campuses as well as some of the practices that have worked for them when addressing these problems.

A document summarizing what was covered, along with helpful links, will be emailed to attendees after the conference so they can apply the best practices discussed in the session.

PART 1 - OPENING SESSION | 2:00pm – 3:00pm

A Year of Protest: Ideological Divides and America's College Campuses

A request to hold a “Free Speech for All” rally has come to the university from a student group. Among the speakers listed is an individual that has been involved in rallies on other campuses where protests occurred, some of which turned violent. Several student groups have learned of the request and have already begun posting comments about it on social media.

Initially a decision is made to deny the rally from being held on campus due to safety concerns. Administrators debate whether this will be perceived as an attempt to block specific individuals, topics or points of view than a valid safety issue. If so, this would open the university up to a potential First Amendment lawsuit.

The rally is scheduled to be held in six weeks. A planning committee is identified to address safety and security issues that have been reported at other rallies involving the speaker as well as the overall response. Issues identified include: student utilization of social media to incite other student groups to protest; groups arriving on campus who are not affiliated with the college and who are organizing their own counter-protests; and increased traffic and disruption.

Sound familiar?  It's no secret that 2017 saw several high-profile protests on university campuses across the country, many of them fueled by ideological divisions. Universities can prepare for protests during large events on campus by conducting risk assessments, developing and evaluating emergency response plans, and training response teams through drills and tabletop exercises. Of particular importance during potentially volatile situations is a robust communications strategy which allows the public affairs office and the communications team to control messaging and convey important information before, during and after the event.

PART 2 - FORUM DISCUSSION | 3:00pm - 5:00pm

As a group, we will discuss challenges facing universities including:

• Not receiving enough notice about controversial speakers

• Presidents and public safety holding different opinions and expectations

• Post orders not being well-defined

• Determining who has authority to make the call to intervene and decide if a crime is occurring

• Handling confusing protest policies written by lawyers

• Dealing with public roadways running through some campuses

• Jurisdiction issues when other entities, such as a high school, private institution, etc. are either on campus or adjacent to campus

• Handling medical issues, food and water needs, etc.

Attendees Will Learn:
  • The need for a campus risk assessment for events that could escalate and potentially turn violent, in addition to reviewing current university emergency response plans with attention to identifying crisis thresholds, notifying critical teams and utilizing campus and community resources.
  • How to utilize notification drills and tabletop exercises to train and prepare for protests.
  • How to develop a crisis communications strategy that involves identifying various stakeholder audiences, communicating with those audiences and determining what tools to use before, during and after the event.