During ongoing student discussions about divestment from Israel, a series of racially charged incidents created a toxic environment on campus at a large, public land-grant school. During this period, swastikas were spray painted on a Jewish fraternity and chants of “Allahu Akbar” erupted when the student association voted to demand divestment. The vote, the chants, and the graffiti went viral resulting in significant media coverage, trolling of the campus’ social media, and on-campus protests by non-affiliates identified by the FBI as extremists.

BMCG was engaged to provide strategic guidance to campus leadership and support the communications team in developing a plan to rebuild reputation damaged by national media coverage.

Actions / Recommendations:

  • Developed strategy to return focus to campus community including a series of initiatives led by the vice president of community relations, the town, and prominent leaders in Jewish and Muslim faiths
  • Developed all crisis communications materials, joint letter to the community, talking points, hard Q&A on similar issues that were anticipated to be part of criticism of “tone-deaf” administration
  • Strengthened social media policy on multiple university platforms to allow for deletion of hate speech while respecting freedom of speech expectations for a public institution.


The multi-faith initiatives on campus actions were well-received by the community and outside pressure dissipated, as were counseling services provided to impacted students and staff (including 20 rapid-reaction call center volunteers).