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Survey: Conflict Among Student Protesters ‘Unlikely’

October 1, 2021
 
 

A majority of academic leaders believe that conflicts between students of different ideological groups are unlikely or very unlikely to occur on their campuses this year, according to a recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Center for University Excellence at American University.

Just over 1 percent of survey respondents said such events would be “very likely,” and less than 1 percent said they were very concerned about potential confrontations between student protesters and counterprotesters.

The survey, conducted in the spring, queried 140 senior college and university administrators about the return to in-person learning, rising national polarization and their priorities for the academic year.

“We hope campus leaders will use this report to reflect on the conversations that may or may not be happening on their campus,” Ashley Finley, co-author of the survey report and vice president for research and senior adviser to the president at AAC&U, said in a statement. “Finding opportunities to invite civil dialogue will be far better for campus community building than being caught off guard.”

Other notable findings:

  • About a quarter of respondents -- including 4 percent who said they do not know -- report that their campus does not have formal policies for managing protests. Fifty-seven percent said they do not have policies for managing confrontations involving protesters and counterprotesters.
  • A quarter of senior administrators said that public safety officers have had “robust” training in handling face-to-face confrontations between groups. Sixteen percent of respondents said the same about student affairs personnel.
  • Senior administrators at private colleges ranked student support needs as their highest priority, followed by student resource challenges and college affordability, and then student protests and collective action.

(The headline on this story has been changed to better reflect the content.)

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