Engaging Election Contention: Understanding Why Presidents Engage with Contentious Issues

Jonathan McNaughtan, Elisabeth D McNaughtan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, technology has made it possible, and in some ways critical, for college and university presidents to increase campus-wide communication. Following the 2016 US presidential election, many presidents, with almost no precedent guiding them, sent out campus-wide communications in response to the election, calling for unity and respectful dialogue. Campus and community reactions to these presidential communications were mixed due to the contentious nature of the election. In an effort to better understand a president’s decision to communicate, this study utilized coded interviews with 12 US flagship institution presidents or vice-presidents for communication, providing insight into why presidents generally respond to contentious events, and more specifically, why presidents chose to respond to the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Four motivations that generally influenced presidential communications were identified (i.e., responsibility to campus stakeholders, pressure to re
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-217
JournalHigher Education Quarterly
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


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