UNL Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Juan Franco, says university officials try to keep communication lines open, both formally with different groups and informally in one-on-one discussions with students.
“We try to determine what’s on their mind, what’s troubling them,” Franco tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “We try to arrange it so that they feel comfortable coming to us. I think, to a larger extent, it’s work. We’re not perfect, of course.”
Many campus disruptions have been far removed from Nebraska, with a big exception. The University of Missouri erupted with protests that both the officials at the Columbia campus and those with the university system as a whole failed to adequately address concerns expressed by African-American students. Protests simmered to a boiling point when the Missouri football team threatened to boycott its game with BYU if the issues weren’t addressed. The president of the system resigned. The chancellor of the Columbia campus is stepping down.
Franco believes a lack of communication has been a big factor in those campus disruptions.
“Certainly that’s one of the things we try to keep in mind,” Franco says. “The students are smart. And they know there is no easy solution to a lot of these things, but they want to know that the administration cares that the administration is trying to do something.”
Franco says the university wants to provide a safe environment for minority students while upholding the principles of free speech for all students.
“We don’t want to tell people they can’t say certain words or censure them,” according to Franco. “We simply want them to be respectful.”
Franco says it boils down to creating the appropriate culture.
“And that’s what we’re struggling with is to make sure that the culture here at UNL is one that allows for those two things to happen; free exchange of ideas, but in a respectful way, in a civil way. That’s how a democracy should work.”