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College of Education > News and Publications > 2015 January–March news > Faculty Member Coauthors Guide For Universities Managing Student Protests

Faculty Member Coauthors Guide For Universities Managing Student Protests

Neal Hutchens, associate professor of education, helped write a resource for higher-education institutions to navigate difficult campus protests.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Colleges and universities now have an easy-to-understand resource to help them balance First Amendment rights with maintaining safety during on-campus protests.

Neal Hutchens
Neal Hutchens
Published by the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) in partnership with the Education Law Association, the latest issue of Legal Links features articles outlining the key legal rules applicable to student protests, suggests policy for student codes of conduct, and highlights the differences in public and private institution rights, among other topics. It is available to NASPA members at online.

Neal Hutchens, associate professor of higher education, is a co-author of the publication.

“I contributed to this report because a significant amount of my research focuses on speech and expression in higher education,” Hutchens said.

Hutchens said that universities must balance between creating a safe environment for students who are both involved and not involved in protests.

“A fundamental purpose of higher education is to create and foster spaces for the free exchange of ideas,” he said. “As institutions respond to obligations to protect the safety of individuals on campus and to ensure that regular campus activities are not impeded, officials need to be mindful of preserving channels for open speech and expression, including student protest activities.

Universities need to be especially mindful of the actions they take to limit speech, Hutchens said.

“If institutions want students to be engaged citizens, then their policies and practices must align with that vision,” he said. “Squashing instances of student expression, including student protest, merely for purposes of control and concern over image and brand are not in alignment with that.”

Hutchens became involved with NASPA while working on the first issue of Legal Links, which was focused on the legal obligations of universities when sexual harassment accusations occur. He said that he hopes his work will help colleges and universities to design policies that follow both legal standards and their institutional values.

By Jack Small (January 2015)