Navigating Campus Conflict: Resources & Action Steps

Navigating Campus Conflict: Resources & Action Steps

In times of civil unrest, how should you be showing up for your campus community?

There are no easy solutions in times of conflict, but there are resources and lessons learned that can provide guidance to campus safety practitioners. The Clery Act does not specifically address campus protests or demonstrations, however it does emphasize a holistic approach to campus safety, and includes guideposts to inform security awareness education, hate crime reporting, and emergency notification

It’s important not to conflate protests and violence; community members retain the right to protest safely, while the institution bears the responsibility of safeguarding First Amendment rights and upholding laws and policies. If a situation does escalate into harassment, violence, or hate crimes, the institution must be able to recognize it and know how to respond.

There are a few areas where the Clery Act intersects with response and decision-making around this topic:

  • Your annual security report (ASR) must include a description of programs that are designed to inform students and employees about campus security procedures and practices and that encourage students and employees to be responsible for their own security and that of others.
    [Free resource: ASR Program Descriptions Worksheet]
  • Policies for reporting crimes and other emergencies — this will be particularly relevant for the reporting of physical violence, sexual assault, and hate crimes. Make sure your community knows how to make a report and campus security authorities know their reporting obligations. 
    [Free resource:Combating Hate Crimes on College and University Campuses]
  • Consider what types of behaviors/incidents could turn a protest into an immediate threat to the health or safety of the campus community (which would require an emergency notification).
    [Free resource:
     Timely Warnings and Emergency Notifications: Separate and Distinct Requirements]
    • For example, activities that could constitute a shutdown of a protest under policy (and the First Amendment) is: harm to another, and inciting imminent violence or destruction of property (which could result in arrest or disciplinary action).
    • The First Amendment does not protect civil disobedience (nonviolent unlawful conduct) – consider strategies for de-escalation.

What next? Questions to consider and action steps:

  • Review and share your campus policies on open expression, demonstration, and or/protests — what do they allow or prohibit? What disciplinary processes are in place to uphold them? 
  • Connect with students that are impacted and/or involved. How can you utilize existing relationships you have with students and student groups to encourage a safe protest?
  • Be aware of your own biases around the situation (remain calm and nonjudgmental). Ensure your department has bias training so they are able to recognize their own and ensure they can apply policies consistently.
  • As you review your policies and practices, get input from a range of campus stakeholders and center the most marginalized members of your community to maximize safety.

 Clery Center Resources: 

Additional Resources: 

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