- A new 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, according to Diverse.
- Among suggestions is the idea that board members ought to know First Amendment rights and how they apply to the campus, 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, reports Inside Higher Ed.
- The report also suggests board members encourage civil, open dialogue, but step aside in instances of campus unrest so presidents can communicate and hear out student concerns on campus culture and freedom of speech, and it also suggests the board support president policies to make clear that the institution supports free speech policies.
The report highlights a reality that higher ed presidents can no longer meet the needs of students by staying in the background. A recent survey showed that many presidents don't see student affairs as being part of their jobs, but it's actually a critical component, especially now as student bodies become more diverse and non-traditional. Students look toward leadership at the top in order to seek assurance that their campus is a place of safety and will give them to proper ROI they seek. There is no exception to this reality when considering free speech and campus culture, as students will seek a proper response from institutional leaders.
A recent example includes this year's unrest at the University of Virginia campus, where the president's leadership was called into question for her lax response to the events that unfolded. And at the University of Missouri, former president Timothy Wolfe was ousted for not responding appropriately to instances of violence. The report follows the heels of these examples and others, showing that presidents must take ownership over campus culture and ensure that their constituents feel like their voices are being heard — or otherwise risk losing relevancy or being the subject of criticism.