The Center for Teaching & Learning has gathered resources to support your classrooms in discussion and reflection around the November 3 national election. 

Download a PDF of this tip sheet

We also recommend downloading the Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom Memo Updated (PDF) and visiting campus websites addressing academic freedom: 

First Amendment Rights in the Classroom: The Balance Between Our Rights and Responsibilities

The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The first amendment protects people’s speech from government censorship. It does not mean that there are no consequences for comments that students make in the classroom environment or other course contexts such as Zoom meeting and chats, discussion threads, and office hours. The faculty member, instructor, or graduate student instructor determines the parameters of engagement, including which topics will be considered relevant to the course.

Modeling Non-Partisanship through the Tools of Diplomacy

Assist students in identifying the common values underlying strong opinions.

Create thought experiments by asking “Let’s suppose X is true and we try to view this situation through that world view for 2 minutes. Then we will share our observations and thoughts.”

Help students elucidate assumptions by examining what has been normalized for them. Begin by asking “What do we presume to be true in this situation, and what exceptions can we identify?”

Encourage class communities to use points of confusion for research and exchange: “Let’s break this up into research teams and then share what we learn together.”

Having a particular set of beliefs should not impact a person’s standing. In order to make sure this is true, civility and caution should be a priority. Remind students to think of people with different views as a resource rather than a roadblock: “What can you learn from them about how other people think and experience the world?”

Model respectful behavior and communication at all times, in both verbal and non-verbal offerings.

Structuring Civil Discourse

Track conversations by stating topics clearly, and encourage students to preface their contributions by stating how their comments relate to the central topic. Write down suggestions for unrelated topics and follow up with another time slot to address them. 

Build in frequent pauses. This allows a few moments for students to collect, organize and capture their thoughts before launching conversations. 

Set agreements for commentaries and use timers to stay within those guidelines.

In videoconferencing applications, consider disengaging private chat functions to keep the channel of communication focused within the collective.

Establish classroom norms/guidelines. Clearly define what you mean by uncivil, harassing or threatening behavior prior to opening discussions. Step in to intervene immediately if you observe it occurring. The class is relying on you to maintain fairness.

Keeping the Learning Space Open During Charged Topics of Conversation

Allow questions to nudge the conversation forward


  • “I hear you and wish to sincerely consider this feedback. May I ask you a few questions to help me situate this information better in my understanding?”
  • “The information you are presenting is unsettling and difficult for me, but I want you to know that I’m interested in understanding what you are offering.”

Revisit or establish rules of engagement

  • Revisit classroom norms that have been established. This should include what is expected of them and what students can expect from you as well. Address appropriate use of the chat window and screen sharing in Zoom. If this hasn’t been articulated previously, create expectations together. Ask students to collaborate on creating classroom norms for engaging in charged discussions. Identify the behaviors that convey respectful discussion (giving others the benefit of the doubt, letting people finish making their point, sharing the conversation, trying hard to be curious about someone else’s point of view, etc.). Likewise, have them identify what would constitute a lack of respect (i.e., name calling, sarcasm, cutting someone off, talking over other people, eye rolling, not making an effort to understand, etc.).This is a critical step that makes it possible for you and your students to respond to problematic comments and derailed conversations.
  • Use these explicit expectations about what behavior is expected and what is unacceptable to moderate discussion and watch closely for transgressions. Working with the group, swiftly address behaviors or comments that are out of bounds.
  • Find consensus with your students on how to repair when someone goes out-of-bounds or missteps. 
Don't: Do:
Tell people they are wrong Ask people what value or experiences led them there
Ask how someone could ever believe something Ask when a particular belief first started for them
Interrupt people Give a moment to make sure they are done
Instead of “Yeah, but, what about…” Try, “ Could you please tell me more…”
Assume you know their motives Ask about their goals and hopes
Blame them for your anger or frustration Explain your anger or frustration and take responsibility for it

Model intellectual humility by using "Fumble Forward"

To promote open exchange in a charged subject matter, students preface their public commentary by saying “I’m about to fumble with my words.” The community responds as a chorus with “Fumble Forward!” It is a social agreement/contract to let confusion be a vital part of discourse. Perhaps a student is unsure of the terminologies needed to join a conversation. Perhaps they are unsure if their questions will be offensive. Perhaps they don’t have fully formulated ideas and opinions yet. But for the next few minutes, all have agreed to suspend judgement, lean in and help each other clarify through a process of corrective, delicate or clumsy verbal surgery. Fumble Forward allows participants to stay open and speak from the heart with diplomacy, even if their voices are trembling and they can’t find confident, stable ground. Fumble Forward gives all a starting place to back away from sounding off on each other. We can diplomatically move towards true listening and communication.

Utilize misinformation as an opportunity

Inspire research and procedures for checking the veracity of sources. Invite all to participate in this shared fact-checking process.

If you or your students need assistance

Violations of campus policies and acts of harassment should be reported to the CU Boulder Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance

Confidential assistance for all CU Boulder students, staff, and faculty with any university-related dispute or concern is available from the CU Boulder Ombuds

Our campus offers a consultation to explore options for reporting at Don't Ignore It. If you are considering reporting a concern, we encourage you to report:

  • Even if you don’t know the identity of the person who caused the harm
  • Even if you are unsure whether it’s something the university could address
  • Even if you don’t know what you want to have happen
  • Even if you think it’s not serious enough

CU Boulder’s Red Folder website can support you responding to students in distress. 

Information about Voting Procedures

In Colorado, if you miss online or mail registration deadlines, you will not receive a ballot by mail, but you can still vote in person at a voter service and polling center. Important safety measures are currently active in Colorado to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Exercise physical distancing, hand sanitizing, and mask protocols if voting in person. Remember to bring a blue or black pen or marker! 

Inspiring & educational resources

  • Braver Angels is a not-for-profit organization that brings people of disparate views together for civil debate--not to find centrist compromise, but to find one another as citizens beyond stereotypes and assumptions.
  • Colorado Fair Campaign Practices Act. Originally enacted in 1974, then repealed and re-enacted in 1996. Amended in 1996.
  • Faculty and Staff Assistance Program Drop-in Support Sessions. The Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) is pleased to offer free virtual drop-in counseling support during the upcoming election week (November 2-6) in the form of 1:1 virtual rooms. Drop-in counseling is helpful for employees looking to receive immediate and confidential mental health support during this election week.
  • A Nonpartisan Model for Developing Public-Service Leaders developed by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, the model encourages public service employees to develop leadership values and skills towards “stewardship of public trust and commitment to public good.” The framework focuses on professional and leadership development for the future. 
  • Post-Election Resource and Response Guide. On October 8, over 100 PAC-12 stakeholders in the student voting space came together to ideate around the question “How might we prepare to support campus stakeholders in processing and responding to a tumultuous post-election season?” This document is a synthesis of their ideas for how best to address that challenge. They’ve provided helpful resources that can support you and your community in enacting these ideas.
  • Project Pericles provides a set of curricular resources for faculty, across all disciplines, who are interested in incorporating nonpartisan voter education into the curriculum. These modules represent a wide range of geographic regions and can be tailored for the fine arts, humanities, social sciences, and STEM. CU Boulder’s Krishna Pattisapu (School of Education) is our campus coordinator for this resource. 
  • Your Vote Counts, CU Boulder's general election webpage. Find an array of resources, events, and news on this page.