The Impact of Student Activism on Higher Education Administrators: Implications for Institutional Response, Strategy, and Social Media



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The purpose of this research study was to use a phenomenological qualitative research approach to gain insight into how university administrators were prepared to respond to student activism, discover what strategies university administrators used when responding to student activism, and how social media affected university administrator's responses to student activism. Participants were six university presidents, vice presidents, and deans of students working at 4-year public institutions in Texas who were selected using criterion-based sampling. Each participant participated in one sixty-minute interview consistent with the phenomenological research approach. Structural coding and analytic memo writing were used to analyze the data. The data analysis revealed nine themes: (a) external and internal pressure, (b) balancing act and competing values, (c) varied degrees of student activism, (d) faculty activism, (e) student development and engagement, (f) empathy, (g) impact of social media, (h) institutional and organizational support, and (i) roles, and responsibilities. These themes indicated that social media presented new challenges for participants regarding institutional policy. However, university administrators were prepared to respond to student activism and had effective strategies for responding to student activism.



Student activism, First Amendment, Free speech, Social media, University administrator, Institution, Higher education