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ACE Publication Provides Guidance to Academic Leaders on Handling Campus Crises

November 15, 2012

Leadership in Times of Crisis


​Preparing for a wide array of potential emergencies and being ready to employ every available form of communication are some of the keys that enable college presidents to successfully lead their campuses through a crisis, according to a new publication released by ACE.

Leadership in Times of Crisis: “Cool Head, Warm Heart” stems from an ACE Presidential Roundtable convened in June where 16 presidents, along with media experts and attorneys, discussed how to approach campus crises. It can be purchased here.

ACE Presidential Roundtables are daylong conversations among higher education leaders and experts that explore a set of pressing higher education issues and the role of presidents in addressing them.

This essay, by Gretchen M. Bataille, ACE senior vice president for Leadership and Lifelong Learning, and Meredith S. Billings and Christopher J. Nellum, both graduate students at the University of Michigan, summarizes the practical guidance offered to campus leaders at the roundtable. The issues addressed at the session included creating crisis teams, developing sound relationships with the media and confronting new technologies that dominate campus communications and require rapid responses even as an event is unfolding.

A campus crisis can take many forms, from a natural catastrophe such as a tornado to a human tragedy such as a student death, but preparation is essential, and it is the president’s face and voice that must be available in a way that reflects individual and institutional values, according to roundtable participants.

“A campus crisis can have enormous repercussions for an institution and for its leader, and a college president must spend time and energy proactively assembling the information and resources needed to respond to an endless list of possible emergencies,” Bataille said. “This publication is a blueprint for how presidents can prepare for and handle a crisis once it occurs.”

The essay notes that Janice M. Abraham, the president and CEO of the education insurance company United Educators, reminded presidents they must “be human” and their actions must, in the end, represent their ability to have a “cool head and a warm heart.”

The ACE Presidential Roundtable and resulting publication were generously supported by the TIAA-CREF Institute.

“These discussions provide campus leaders with an opportunity to debate issues, share ideas and offer best practices that are critical to their future success,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, senior managing director and head of the TIAA-CREF Institute. “Fostering this knowledge-sharing environment is central to our mission. We are proud to lend our support and expertise to ensure campus leaders have the tools they need to anticipate and prepare for the future.”

Jonathan Riskind ▪ 202-939-9453 ▪

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