Managing Controversial Speakers on College Campuses

Here’s how U.S. institutions of higher education are attempting to address the security issues surrounding controversial speakers and protests.

Managing Controversial Speakers on College Campuses

Editor’s Note: In response to the widespread protests about George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Campus Safety is reposting this article we ran in September 2018 on managing controversial speakers on college campuses. 

Original September 19, 2018 article:

At all three Campus Safety Conferences (CSC) this summer, Vivian Marinelli, who is senior director of crisis management services at FEI, led an in-depth discussion on protests and controversial speakers on and near U.S. college campuses. CSC attendees from around the nation shared their struggles, as well as some solutions that have worked for them in maintaining law and order before, during and after an event.

The following article is a summary of their comments and suggestions (none of the individuals who commented or participated are identified).

Please note that this is not legal advice. Before your department makes any changes or adopts any new policies, be sure to check with legal counsel. Every campus is different, and every state has its own laws. Be sure that what your institution implements meets all legal and ethical requirements.

The summary specifically covers:

  • The identities of the controversial groups involved
  • What steps to take when an event request is received
  • Hosting alternative events
  • Event security and safety planning
  • Time and place considerations
  • Working with other first responders
  • Crowd monitoring and control
  • Managing the media and the influx of calls

Because this information is sensitive in nature, CS is only releasing it to college and university police chiefs, security directors, emergency managers and high-level administrators who we personally vet.

If you wish to receive this document, please email CS Editor-in-Chief Robin Hattersley at  with your bio, email address and phone number. The subject line of the message should be “Managing Controversial Speakers.”

We reserve the right to deny requests.

Photo iStock.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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