Issue Guides for Deliberative Dialogue

Civic Engagement Policy and Advocacy Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice Division LEAD Initiative Public Policy Division Student Affairs Partnering with Academic Affairs Student Leadership Programs AVP or "Number Two" Faculty Mid-Level Senior Level VP for Student Affairs
December 18, 2019

In partnership with the Kettering Foundation, NASPA is developing issue guides for use by higher education institutions. Following the model establish by the National Issues Forum, NASPA issue guides are designed for use by groups with differing and diverse perspectives around a central question that does not necessarily have a predetermined "right" answer. Deliberative forums introduce participants to multiple options for addressing a central issue or question and allow time for each option, and its tradeoffs or drawbacks, to be discussed by participants. The goal of a deliberative forum is to help participants consider issues from multiple perspectives and to engage in conversation with others who may hold different - and sometimes passionately held - opinions.

Learn more

Learn more about NASPA's work to develop issue guides by clicking on the items below. Questions we haven't covered here? Contact Diana Ali ([email protected]) for assistance!

Free Speech and the Inclusive Campus Issue Guide

NASPA's first issue guide, Free Speech and the Inclusive Campus: How Do We Foster the Campus Community We Want?, is now available online! The research involved in developing the guide included interviews and conversations with campus stakeholders who have multiple perspectives; the initial drafts were reviewed by individuals with direct experience in student affairs and higher education. 

The United States is becoming increasingly diverse and more polarized as we struggle to address complex public problems such as immigration, health care, economic inequality, and America’s role in the world (Pew Research Center, 2017). As public trust in our political system waivers, U.S. college campuses are grappling with issues of inclusion, diversity, and freedom of speech (Rainie, Keeter, & Perrin, 2019). Conversations about free speech on campus are often framed in opposition to diversity and inclusion and have spawned controversies, protests, and even violence. In 2017, a much-cited survey of more than 3,000 college students conducted by Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation presented diversity and inclusion as directly opposite free speech, asking students which issues they felt were more important; 53% chose inclusion and 46% chose free speech (see Figure 1; Knight Foundation, 2018). In today’s contentious and divided political environment, what should colleges and universities do to meet the roles and responsibilities of higher education to foster the campus community we want?

While the guide is informed by conversations with hundreds of student affairs professionals, special thanks are due to those who helped guide its creation:

  • Brent Marsh, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, University of Mississippi

  • Erin Payseur Oeth, project manager for community engagement, University of Mississippi

  • Kara Lindaman, professor of political science, Winona State University

  • Diana Ali, associate director of policy research and advocacy, NASPA

  • Stephanie King, director, strategic initiatives, ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge

  • Teri Lyn Hinds, senior director, strategic initiatives, Equity 2030, Minnesota State


Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Inclusive Campus Issue Guide

Today, as colleges and universities face wavering public trust and state investment in their missions, those who question the purpose of higher education—and the responsibility colleges and universities have to their students and communities—might focus their crosshairs on Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL), especially as campuses center on issues such as mental health, sexual assault, race, equity, inclusion, and marginalized student populations. Where does FSL fit in these growing issues in higher education?


The project team for the Fraternity and Sorority Life issue guide is:

  • Brent Marsh, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, University of Mississippi

  • Christopher Graham, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Florida State University

  • Erin Payseur Oeth, project manager for community engagement, University of Mississippi

  • Francisco Lugo, Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life at Georgia Southern 

  • Heather Black, Dean of Students, Chatham University

  • Kara Lindaman, professor of political science, Winona State University

  • Diana Ali, associate director of policy research and advocacy, NASPA

  • Jill Dunlap, senior director of research, policy, and civic engagement, NASPA 

The Role of the Institution in Addressing Systemic Racism Issue Guide

The issue guide, The Role of Institutions in Addressing Systemic Racism puts forth three approaches to addressing systemic racism: (1) focusing on academic inquiry and shared learning, (2) investing in cocurricular programming and workforce development, and (3) creating a sense of belonging and thriving. Each approach is worthy of individual exploration, and each brings a unique set of potential actions for campuses to weigh against considerable trade-offs. By considering the benefits and drawbacks of each approach, campus leaders will be better positioned to find ways to move forward together.

Important to note, this issue guide identifies systemic racism as a persistent problem embedded within the fabric of American society and highlights the questions and tensions inherent in addressing it within higher education.

The Role of the Institution in Addressing Systemic Racism Issue Guide

The Role of the Institution in Addressing Systemic Racism Moderator’s Guide


Although conversations with hundreds of student affairs professionals informed this publication, special thanks are due to those who helped guide its creation:

• Aaron Jones, Director, Educational Opportunity Programs, Division of Student Affairs and Success, University of California, Santa Cruz

• Amy Koeckes, Associate Director, Student Engagement, University of Nevada, Reno

• Erin Payseur Oeth, Consultant, Civic Engagement & Higher Education

• Heather Black, Vice President for Student Success, Buena Vista University

• Talia Carroll, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Oklahoma City University

Kettering Foundation Liaisons

• Erika Mason-Imbody, Chief of Staff/Assistant to the Vice President, University of Alabama

• Kara Lindaman, Professor of Political Science, Winona State University


• Diana Ali, Associate Director of Policy Research and Advocacy, NASPA

• Jill Dunlap, Senior Director Policy Research Advocacy and Civic Engagement, NASPA

• Ke’Ana Bradley, Director for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and, Early Career Initiatives, NASPA

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is NASPA creating issue guides for deliberative dialogue?

In recent years, higher education institutions have seen dramatic increases in polarization on campus. Democratic deliberation is an important civic literacy skill with have applications across institutions of higher education, including in classrooms and student organizations. Participants in deliberative dialogue forums practice approaches to building understanding across differences and developing a shared, or common, purpose. The skills and model of deliberative dialogue translate to a variety of “wicked problems” that campus communities face. 

What issues will NASPA create issue guides about?

NASPA has created issue guides on Free Speech, Fraternity and Sorority Life, the Role of the Institution in Addressing Racial Inequity.  

How do I access a FREE recording of a moderator training?

Reach out to the NASPA staff affiliated with the creation of the guides for a recording and/or slides. 

How long does it take to create an issue guide?

The work for each guide takes about a year, though this sometimes depends based on the subject matter. 

What is the full process for creating an issue guide?

The NASPA Issue Guides are created by a core planning team consisting of NASPA staff and members which works together to engage in community-based research and development of each guide. The team will:

  • Lead a variety of concern gathering sessions, some held in-person at NASPA events and some held virtually.

  • Process and distill the resulting data at a 2-day in-person team meeting.

  • Write the guide in the model established by the National Issues Forum.

  • Test the guide at a pilot test session held at a NASPA event and at pilot test deliberations on campuses.

What is “concern gathering”?

Concern gathering is a term used by the Kettering Foundation to describe a process for naming and framing issues that exist in communities where there isn’t a clear “right” answer or direction. It’s the first step in developing an issue guide and designed to be a way of surfacing and collecting the voices of those across the community (in our case, the broader community of student affairs professionals) about a particular topic.

Who should participate in concern gathering?

In order to hear from as many student affairs professionals as possible, NASPA will hold at least six concern gathering sessions for each issue guide. Many of these sessions will be held virtually so that we can hear from those who aren’t able to travel to one of our conferences. The intent is to hear not only from those professionals who are working directly with a given topic or issue but also those in other areas across campus or even at campuses who don’t have strong involvement with a given topic or issue but have thoughts about their role in higher education spaces in general.

Is concern gathering about airing grievances?

No. The format for concern gathering is broad-based – we’re not looking specifically for negative aspects related to a given topic or issue, but also where people see how some of the opportunities around a topic or issue on campus and within students experiences that may not be getting the attention they deserve. Depending on the conversations that come up during concern gathering, we may, for instance, end up focusing an issue guide on how campuses can best promote and expand those positive contributions in the face of some of the more “headline grabbing” incidents. We won’t know for sure what the focus of the guide will be until we hear from the community during the sessions, though, so it’s hard at the start to be more specific.

What happens after the concern gathering sessions?

Following the concern gathering phase, the issue guide team will meet to begin identifying issues and values that surfaced during these sessions. They will review all the notes and try to group concerns by a core underlying value that seems to be expressed by the concern. By focusing on the underlying values, the team will be better able to identify possible options for future forum participants to consider, along with their attendant benefits and trade-offs. Our ultimate goal is to create an issue guide around this topic to assist colleagues in navigating conversations around these issues on their own campus.

Forum Evaluations

Were you a participant or a moderator for a forum using a NASPA issue guide? please fill out a questionnaire below to help us evaluate how the guides are being used and identify topics for future issue guides!

The participant evaluation can be used to assess NASPA Free Speech and Fraternity and Sorority Life issue guides, along with any other National Issues Forum guide relevant to campus forums. The moderator evaluation is only applicable to Free Speech and Fraternity and Sorority Life. 

Participant Evaluation

Moderator Evaluation