An elite, private institution in a majority black, southern city had been grappling with multiple DEI-related issues, including university policing, the naming of various buildings on campus, and broader campus climate concerns. The removal of a tenured Black woman faculty member from a key role caused significant uproar from students, alumni and some faculty, intense media scrutiny, and pressure on university leadership from all quarters. Dozens of residents called for the resignation of the school’s dean, alleging deeply entrenched structural racism and bias.

BMCG was asked to provide a dispassionate risk assessment, provide counsel to decision-makers, develop both short- and long-term strategic plans and support the execution of new DEI initiatives. BMCG also provided both media and contentious meeting training to leaders in advance of difficult meetings and media requests.

Actions / Recommendations:

  • Conducted evaluation of potential strategic options available to university leadership to help mitigate impact of initial decision. BMCG developed an additional “off-ramp” strategy which was agreed to which supported leadership credibility going forward.
  • Within 24 hours of initial outcry developed three-prong strategy including assessment of school culture by third-party DEI experts
  • Conducted contentious meeting trainings for leaders ahead of key stakeholder meetings and multiple, issue-specific media prep sessions
  • Developed a broad communications package, including a website, core messaging/talking points, FAQs, and Hard Qs, targeted to key stakeholder groups.
  • Continued to support the school and university as it renewed and expanded its DEI efforts.


An innovative approach on the specific HR issue together with the substantive and broad strategy to address DEI concerns undercut the saliency of the criticism about the culture of the school. National media interest declined significantly as the details of the approach were shared, and internal stakeholders were able to move on and achieve a level of reconciliation with the changes announced.