Conservative students at a small, liberal arts school invited a controversial speaker to campus for a lecture on race in America. As the student’s “heckler’s veto” degenerated into violence, the speaker had to be relocated and a professor was injured. In the aftermath, a new president and administration were seen as over-reacting, further fracturing the community. The incident became infamous, damaging the reputation of this august college. BMCG was retained by the Board of Trustees to provide an assessment of the situation and on-going risks, and whether the current administration would be able to effectively recover. BMCG also was charged with developing a broader recovery strategy.

Actions / Recommendations:

  • Using BMCG’s risk assessment process, we conducted 20 interviews, including Board members, and presented 15 recommendations, including changing the reporting structure to the president, establishing the president’s role more strategically in responding to an issue, strengthening the school’s culture around its vision and mission, making personnel changes in key offices and adopting formal crisis management and crisis communications plans.
  • Updated the school’s event approval and site security policies, protest management policy and MOU processes with surrounding law enforcement agencies.
  • Built capability around responding to key issues such as academic freedom, free speech and diversity.


The Board agreed and the administration accepted all BMCG recommendations, which were implemented over the next 12-18 months. BMCG developed robust crisis management and crisis communications plans and then held exercises for those teams specifically around protest management. The same speaker was invited back by the students, and the school was well-prepared to host a secure, safe event following its new policies and plans.