How a president's handling of protests led to the decline of a campus
- When the Evergreen State College campus shut down in June due to unrest from student protests, racial tension and public response to a professor's controversial email concerning equity practices at the institution, President George Bridges faced scrutiny over his response to the events and inability to advance safety on campus, with a complete shutdown occurring, reports the Chronicle for Higher Education.
- In the immediate aftermath, the institution faced $10,000 worth of damage and incurred a cost of $100,000 to rent a stadium for graduation, due to the campus being determined unsafe — a reality which further prompted the police chief of the institution to proclaim the campus was "out of control." To add, the professor in question settled a $500,000 tort claim against the institution for a "hostile work environment," and soon resigned.
- Evergreen State now faces a potential bill to have its public funding stripped and saw a 4.5% drop in enrollment this year — a situation which has inspired "a deluge of criticism about how poorly the president had managed the protesters."
With a string of student protests across the nation on college campuses — the most recent including costly events on The University of Florida campus, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Virginia — it is becoming increasingly evident that campus administrators must prepare in advance for the potential of campus unrest, as well as the subsequent costs. With protests resulting in upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and long-term expenses, investing in adequate security is necessary to prevent further damage. But beyond just the potential loss, institution leaders must be aware that their response to student protests will often come under the microscope.
In addition to the public scrutiny President Bridges has faced with the handling of the Evergreen State College campus, other higher education leaders have been compelled to resign due to their lack of action. For example, former president of the University of Missouri Tim Wolfe was forced to resign following his handling of racial hostilities on the college campus in 2015. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also did the same. But to be more prepared, a recent study from researchers from the University at Albany looking at how presidents can better handle campus emergencies suggest six strategies leaders can follow. These include creating pre-conditions that facilitate collaboration during an incident, effectively interpreting the complex context of the unrest, fast response and targeted decision making, extending information to stakeholders and constituents on decisions carried out, figuring out the right moment to shut-down the crisis and learning from, as well as documenting, the event to enhance safety and performance.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education A Radical College's Public Meltdown
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