Board of Regents opens conversation about student activism on campus

Gabrielle Bunton

With protests occurring all over America, strategies are being put into place for students who plan to take their activism back on campus.

In Friday’s Board of Regents meeting, a conversation sparked after a report given by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee about how the university will handle students who choose to do demonstrations, marches, protests and more on campus.

Regent George Nichols said that WKU should think about a strategy to help students express themselves in an appropriate manner. 

“I really think we need a strategy to know how we’re going to manage that, both on campus with community leaders, because it’s coming and you know it’s there,” Nichols said. 

Many students live in places where protests and incidents of racial injustice have been focal points for months, such as Louisville. 

“Those young folks are going to come to campus now and they’re going to have those perspectives that they are bringing to campus,” Nichols said. 

Nichols, who lives in the Philadelphia area, said he sees it regularly and WKU must expect that students will want to speak out.

“I watch a lot of universities here in the Philadelphia area and they’re thinking about it as well because of so much of the protest was happening in downtown Philly,” Nichols said.

Michael P. Crowe Jr., director of Student Conduct, said there have been multiple conversations, including with President Timothy Caboni, about what could happen once students return to campus and want to express themselves.

Crowe said WKU officials need to help students learn how to make their feelings known in a productive manner. One way, he said, are university policies that help guide students.  

The university’s time, place, and manner policy includes regulations about meetings, assemblies, demonstrations, or solicitation. The right of a student to engage in such activities carries with it a responsibility to do so at a time, in a place, and in a manner that does not disrupt the regular and orderly working operation of the University or interfere with the rights of others, according to the WKU website.

“The thought process has been there, the planning has been there, the individuals who want to be a part of that work are ready,” Crowe said. “So it’s just a matter of when they return and what we can do to support them.”

Caboni said the great thing about universities is that they encourage and support expression in a variety of viewpoints. 

“For us as a community, the Black Lives Matter movement is driving a national conversation that will be a part of our campus dialogue in the fall,” Caboni said.