Protest Policy Project™


About the Project

Funded by the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan , the Protest Policy Project™ (PPP) primarily aims to critically assess, analyze, and counter-legislate policies aimed punishing students participating in campus protest, particularly those engaged in direct resistance to the presence of hate speech on-campus. As a pilot investigation to be completed during the 2017-2018 academic year, the project is guided by the following research question:

How do contemporary state-level and institutional policies seeking to punish student protestors reflect the historical relationships of power between government, postsecondary institutions, and racially-minoritized populations in higher education?

The overall objective of PPP is to provide historical, political, and social context of laws and policies intended to punish students engaged in protest and other forms of campus activism. In addition, a secondary objective of the project is to develop counter-legislation with which to model a radically reimagined role for policy focused on the root causes of campus unrest rather than the symptom (i.e., protest). The aforementioned will be derived from the findings emerging from multiple data sources, to include existing student activism and social movements literature, historical artifacts (i.e., news articles, photos, and videos), and publicly available documents (i.e., legal precedents, legislation, and policies).

Findings and Results

Four primary deliverables will result from PPP's research. First, a 4-page "insight paper" will be provided to summarize the findings from the analyses of protest policies under consideration by state legislatures and university systems. Secondly, a digital video will be produced to translate the project and its findings into 5-minute synopsis as a supplemental resource. Third, the project intends to produce a pilot episode of a documentary film series focused on contemporary student activism in college. Derived from a combination of archival footage, original content, and to be recorded interviews with policymakers and student activists, this episode (and the series) will be made publicly accessible and screened on-campus at the University of Southern California to an audience of institutional leaders and stakeholders across the University of California and California State University systems. And, finally, a journal article will be prepared for submission to the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management to present more comprehensive findings as proposed policies are considered by legislative bodies, the effects of existing policies become more clear, and new policies for analysis emerge.


Research Team

Sy Stokes is a second-year doctoral student in Urban Education Policy at the University of Southern California and a research associate at the USC Race and Equity Center. While an undergraduate student at UCLA, Sy produced a video entitled “The Black Bruins” in which he took his alma mater to task for racial disparities among the admission and graduation of Black male undergraduates. In addition to having received more that 2-million views online, “The Black Bruins” was a catalyst for similar mediated mobilization campaigns at other colleges and universities to include the University of Michigan, Harvard University, and Oregon State University. His research interests focus on how multiracial people develop activist identities in a society that is heavily structured upon monoracial stratifications. 


Victoria (Tori) Alexander is a Masters of Education student at the University of Southern California, studying Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs. Ms. Alexander is broadly interested in the intersections of law and policy, democratic structures, and social constructs disproportionately affecting Black and low income communities in the United States. As a research assistant at the USC Race and Equity Center, her current research focuses on multiracial student identity development and college student activism.


Harrianna Thompson is Master of Education student at the University of Southern California, studying Post-Secondary Administration and Student Affairs in Rossier School of Education. Ms. Thompson is broadly interested in urban policy research, racial identity development theories, and Black student experiences within the context of university housing and residential education. Additionally, as a research assistant at the USC Race and Equity Center, Ms. Thompson primarily contributes to the Protest Policy Project as a member of our research team. 


Principal Investigator

Dr. Charles H.F. Davis III is an assistant professor at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. He also serves as chief strategy officer and director of research for the USC Race and Equity Center. Dr. Davis’ research has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including Urban Education, Community College Journal of Research and Practice, Educational Foundations, Men and Masculinities, and the Journal of Negro Education. In addition to his written scholarship, Dr. Davis hosted and produced “Saving Tomorrow, Today,” a long-form documentary about the structural barriers facing Black youth in education and innovative solutions to support their success.  He is currently working on his first book entitled “Flourish,” an ethnographic history examining the contemporary evolution of the Dream Defenders, a social movement organization of Black and Brown youth building power and fighting for freedom across the state of Florida.

Sy Stokes  Research Associate

Sy Stokes
Research Associate

Tori Alexander  Research Assistant

Tori Alexander
Research Assistant

Harrianna Thompson  Research Assistant

Harrianna Thompson
Research Assistant

Charles H.F. Davis III, Ph.D.  Principal Investigator

Charles H.F. Davis III, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator