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Volume 4, Issue 12

Plan for Campus Crises

Every community college should have a crisis management plan for logistics and communications, write a pair of experienced institutional leaders.

John J. "Ski" Sygielski, president of Harrisburg Area Community College in Pennsylvania, and Linnie S. Carter, vice president of college advancement, wrote a chapter about crisis management for the new CASE book Opportunity Knocking: How Community College Presidents Can Lead a New Era of Advancement.

They share the following guiding principles for managing a crisis:

  • "Family" comes first. "Your internal stakeholders should hear about the crisis first," the authors write. "And they definitely should hear about the crisis before the media inform them."
  • Tell your own story. "Do not hesitate to share information about the crisis," they write. "Disclosing the crisis yourself allows you to better control the crisis and messaging, and it builds credibility."
  • Be ready for anything. "Prepare for anything—no matter how big or small the situation is," the authors write. "Being blindsided worsens a crisis, so be vigilant and stay ready."
  • Know that nothing is secret. "Confidentiality and discretion are not as valued today as they once were," they write. "Remember that nothing is a secret, and information may be leaked—even by those you thought you could trust. Therefore, be savvy and smart—and even a little cautious—when communicating intimate details about the crisis."
  • Be available 24/7. "Crises are not planned; they have a life of their own," the authors write. "When they occur, organizations need to adopt an all-hands-on-deck philosophy and mentality. All members of the crisis management team must be available every day, all day—for as long as necessary—to ensure the crisis is managed and communicated effectively."
  • Protect your emotional, physical and spiritual health. "Presidents are not superheroes—they are mere mortals," they write. Therefore, protect your emotional, physical and spiritual health. You will be no good to anyone if you do not make your health a top priority. Find healthy strategies to vent and release the stress. A supportive significant other, a close friend, a good book or movie, exercise, a vacation—these are all viable options for recalibrating after managing a crisis."

This article is from the June 2015 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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