Campus leaders are more concerned about supporting students’ well-being, financial needs and mental health than they are about the potential for campus unrest, protests or confrontations, concludes a report, Academic Year 2021–2022: Are College Campuses Ready?, by The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the Center for University Excellence at American University (AU).
Based on results from a nationwide survey of 140 senior college and university administrators collected at the conclusion of the spring 2021 semester, the report found the majority of those surveyed (59%) felt that conflicts between students of different ideological groups are either “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to occur. Additionally, just over 1% marked such confrontations as “very likely” and fewer than 1% reported feeling “very concerned” about potential political confrontations on campus.
“This survey of senior campus leaders raises questions about institutional expectations and preparation for the multiple psychosocial and ideological dynamics that may play out in the coming year,” said Scott A. Bass, executive director of the Center of University Excellence at AU and a coauthor of the report. “It is critically important to look for larger national trends that may prove to be disruptive, anticipate their impact on campus, and prepare the campus community, even if these disruptions do not materialize.”
Similarly, coauthor Ashley Finley, vice president for research and senior advisor to the president at AAC&U, expressed hope that leaders prepare for potential issues they may not have previously considered. According to the survey results, 57% of campus leaders reported having no policies in place for managing confrontations specifically involving protesters and counter-protesters, including 13% who were unsure whether such policies exist on their campus.
“We hope campus leaders will use this report to reflect on the conversations that may or may not be happening on their campus,” said Finley. “Finding opportunities to invite civil dialogue will be far better for campus community building than being caught off guard.”