National Center for Campus Public Safety

Campus Protests and Demonstrations: The Role of Emergency Management

Download the forum report.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides one of America’s most valued freedoms: the right to assemble. College campuses have long been places at which people have exercised this right, making them incubators, launch pads, and proving grounds for many of the country’s most significant social and political changes.

Many institutions of higher education (IHEs) welcome the protests and demonstrations that are frequently a part of these movements, though the events often carry a variety of risks. Violence may erupt, facilities could be damaged or become inaccessible, and unfavorable media coverage could damage reputations, for example. Revenue could shrink if parents, sponsors, alumni, or other groups decide to distance themselves from the IHE after a controversial gathering.

On November 10, 2017, campus public safety executives from 23 institutions of higher education (IHEs), with support from the National Center for Campus Public Safety (NCCPS), gathered in Long Beach, California, for a one-day forum. The purpose of the forum was to define the role of the emergency management program during the planning process for events likely to result in protests and demonstrations. The forum aligns with the NCCPS’s role as a nationwide resource for addressing critical issues in campus safety.

Facilitated discussions during the forum identified 10 topic areas that IHEs must address in order to develop robust solutions that help emergency managers work more efficiently and effectively. These include command and control, planning, operational communications, external factors, violence, safety, secondary concerns, policies, media/crisis communications, and business continuity and recovery.

The report explores the forum discussions, including key challenges identified by participants, and provides a number of promising practices that emergency managers can implement to better coordinate protests and demonstrations.

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