Responding to Community Unrest Discussion Guide

This Discussion Guide was developed to assist boards to “dig deeper” into the questions raised in Volume #8 and Volume #9 of ACCT’s Trustee Talk series on what boards should consider when social unrest and upheaval occurs within the college’s service area.
Taking time to reflect and discuss “hot button” issues:

Community College governing boards vary, as do their colleges, and establish different ways to gather the information they need to fulfill their trusteeship responsibilities. Taking the time to reflect on and discuss significant issues can bring “teachable moments” to your institution. The questions below are listed to assist board members and presidents in digging deeper into discussion of “hot button” issues in their communities. As a college trustee, you are in a better position to determine what works for your board, your institution and your community to encourage thoughtful reflection and meaningful dialogue.

Ten important questions:

1. What are the policy issues or lessons learned from such catastrophic events? When it comes to our disaffected communities, are we asking the right questions? 

2. Is the board openly discussing these difficult social issues? Has time been set aside to bring in different points of view? Boards can serve as a model to the college community especially when the campus sees trustees grappling with important critical issues about disenfranchised components of their community. 

3. Do all communities perceive the college as a “safe haven” in which open dialogue is encouraged? Is the board encouraging the administration to sponsor open dialogue? Are there opportunities for open dialogue and discussion for all campus constituencies to voice their concerns and points of view? Faculty, typically from Humanities and Social Science departments, may already be skilled in fostering dialogue with students and colleagues about recent troubling events and could be used as resources to generate an open forum. 

4. How well do you know your communities? What data do you need to further the college’s understanding of all neighborhoods in its service areas? 

5. What are the connections between the college and its communities? Is there coordination with leadership in the disaffected communities, and if not, how can this be established? 

6. Does the college go the extra mile to those neighborhoods where deprivation is concentrated? In your advocacy role, is this an opportunity for the college to step up? 

7. Accountability: What short-term and long-term impact have our efforts made? 

8. How do we enact our fiduciary responsibility for the economic well-being of the whole community? 

9. Is the board willing to support the long-term commitment the college needs to help their disaffected communities? 

10. Are you prepared? Is the college prepared in case of community unrest? Do you have a plan for responding to emergencies, including connecting with first responders, mental health practitioners, law enforcement, and a communications protocol in place?


Recent web-based articles on community colleges and at-risk students:

For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall

Ferguson, Social Justice and the Role of Community Colleges

Facing the Millennium: California Colleges into the 21st Century

Community Colleges as a Pathway Out of Poverty

At-risk students find success at community colleges

College 101: Introducing At-Risk Students to Higher Education

Broadening the definition of at-risk students

Community College Retention and Recruitment of “At-Risk” Students

How many already attend community college for free?