National Center for Campus Public Safety

Managing Campus Protests and Demonstrations at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Download the forum report.
From the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s to today’s Black Lives Matter movement, students and faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been at the vanguard of social reforms that change America. This powerful and enduring legacy was on the minds of the HBCU participants attending a national forum, and it prompted the following question: Are protests and demonstrations at HBCUs fundamentally different from predominantly white institutions? This question sparked a critical discussion among campus police and safety officials from across the nation who gathered to identify challenges and potential solutions in managing protests and demonstrations on HBCU campuses.

The forum convened on July 18, 2017 at the 18th Annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Law Enforcement Executives and Administrators Training Conference in New Orleans. The participants were seeking to ensure that campus law enforcement policies and practices around protests and demonstrations are not only more effective, but also preserve the traditional role of HBCU campuses as centers of activism, engagement, and dissent. With renewed national attention on policing as it impacts black Americans, the participants observed that students at both HBCUs and predominantly white institutions are engaging in protests focused on police reform and accountability. However, participants also found several differences that make protests and demonstrations at HBCUs unique.

In response to the identified challenges, participants formed specific recommendations to improve campus and community relationships, secure additional resources and training, and document and comply with the latest policies and practices. To make these potential recommendations a reality, the participants identified the following needs as particularly important:

  1. The need to share strategies that
  • bridge gaps between campus law enforcement officials and administration, faculty, and student partners
  • improve campus administration’s understanding of law enforcement needs
  1. The need to harness new tools like social media to
  • manage future disruptions and communicate more effectively
  • deploy necessary personnel and resources before a protest becomes disruptive
  1. The need to respond to student-led protests by
  • increasing understanding of what motivates student protests
  • improving public safety at protests while ensuring constitutional rights are not violated

Through the course of the national forum, a picture emerged among the attending HBCU officials on the importance of relationships and building trust. Key takeaways and conclusions from the forum discussions constitute the principal findings of this report.

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