Crises are no strangers on campuses—whether the deaths of students, severe weather events, athletic wrongdoing, crime, or student or employee malfeasance. How leaders respond can save lives, strengthen the institution, and comfort the community—or compromise reputations and result in scandal.Risk management and readiness are not often at the top of the list of what presidents and their boards must do, but in a time of ongoing change, instantaneous communication, and media scrutiny, they risk their jobs and their institutional reputation if they do not heed the messages conveyed in this book. Gretchen Bataille and Diana Cordova, with extensive and varied experiences that include a university presidency, directing senior leadership programs, and counseling presidents and senior administrators faced with critical campus events – together with 22 presidents, seasoned leaders in higher education, and media experts – provide forthright, firsthand advice on preparing for and managing a crisis, as well on handling the emotional, and often long-term, toll that can result from dramatic events on campus. Through the examples of those who have successfully managed crises, this book provides expert insights and guidance on preparedness, assigning roles and responsibilities, and planning for contingencies ahead of time so that, in the moment, when there is pressure for immediate response that will be scrutinized by the media, by the public, and by the local constituencies, leaders can act with confidence.The contributors emphasize the crucial importance of ethical behavior, the need for clear protocols for how all employees should handle problematic issues, and the need for mechanisms that allow employees and students to report problems without fear of retribution. Creating an atmosphere of transparency, accountability, and ethical behavior isn’t something a leader does when a scandal strikes to protect a reputation; it’s what leaders must do to reinforce their good name every day.For senior leaders and board members not in the throes of managing a crisis, this book outlines what needs to be done to be prepared and offers extensive resources for further reading.
Foreword—John G. Peters, President Emeritus, Northern Illinois University Preface Introduction Part One. Preparing for and Managing a Crisis 1. It’s Not the Crime, It’s the Cover-Up (and the Follow-Up)—Judy Genshaft 2. Building Resilience to Natural Disasters Across the Campus Ecosystem—Burns Hargis, Lee E. Bird, and Brenda D. Phillips 3. The Power of Leadership at a Time of Tragedy—Cynthia Lawson 4. What Can You Do to Keep Your Campus From Having to Rebuild in the First Place?—Dolores Stafford Part Two. Accidents, Catastrophes, and Natural Disasters 5. Rising Waters and Campus Renewal. Leading the University of Iowa Through and Beyond the Flood of 2008—Sally Mason 6. Preparation, Response, and Recovery. The Everydayness of Crisis Leadership—Mark D. Nelson 7. Responsiveness in Times of Crisis. Campus, Mission, and Community—Joseph Urgo 8. A Shelter in the Time of Storm—Bonita J. Brown Part Three. Building a Team. Shared Responsibilities 9. Levels of Crises and Leadership Responses. Role Differentiation and Collaboration—Dianne F. Harrison 10. Crisis Communications With Governing Boards. Lessons From the Penn State Experience—Patrick T. O’Rourke 11. Tools to Rebuild After a Crisis—Janice M. Abraham 12. Courage, Compassion, Communication—Connie J. Gores Part Four. Dealing With the Media. Who to Tell What and When 13. Crisis Communications. Lessons Learned From the Virginia Tech Tragedy—Lawrence G. Hincker 14. Working Effectively With the Media. Advice From the Frontline—Teresa Valerio Parrot Part Five. Remembrance and Healing 15. The Duty to Remember. The Privilege to Inspire Change—Carol A. Cartwright 16. The Blame Game—It’s a Team Sport—Harold Lee Martin, Sr., J. Charles Waldrup, and Nicole M. Pride 17. The Journey of Hope—Kevin M. Ross References for Further Reading Additional Resources Editors and Contributors Index
"There is special appeal in the stories of academic leaders who have been though the unthinkable. Risk auditing, preparation, and careful planning are all important, but even then 'bad things happen to good people and institutions.' Most of the authors have been forced to manage the unthinkable. We can all gain from learning through the experiences and insights of these able leaders."
Peter McPherson, President Emeritus, Michigan State University and President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
"Institution crises, while often defying imagination, require a process of advance imagining. Bataille and Cordova have assembled experienced voices to share the essential challenges of preparing for and responding to campus crises. Also, this important volume gives helpful attention to a governing board's appropriate oversight of crisis-related policies and their implementation. While advance planning and assessment can mitigate some risk and facilitate transparent and effective responses, ultimately it is about ensuring campus safety. Effective leadership can go a long way in protecting what matters most."
Rick Legon, President, Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges
"Managing the Unthinkable is absolutely a must-read for campus leadership. The insights provided by these firsthand, expert accounts of crisis management will go a long way toward helping campuses create cultures of effective, as well as immensely sensitive, responsiveness.
The honesty in this work is breathtaking, and I applaud the authors’ sharing their invaluable lessons learned with such detail and clarity. It’s highly readable, engrossing even. Nowhere else will you find a more comprehensive, up-to-date, and strikingly thoughtful guide to building crisis management into any campus’s protocol."
Nancy L. Zimpher, Chancellor, The State University of New York