A private, liberal arts university was facing relentless criticism internally and in national media for its handling of the termination of a tenured faculty member. The relationship between the President and Board of Trustees was strained, and key segments of the campus community lost confidence that the administration was capable of keeping them safe both physically and emotionally. The university ended its relationship with a public relations agency whose overly aggressive strategy had backfired, exacerbating the issues and damaging stakeholder perceptions of the school, jeopardizing major campus growth initiatives.

BMCG was originally contacted by the head of Advancement and soon retained by the administration to conduct a Risk Assessment and provide both immediate and long-term support in repairing relationships between leaders, regaining the community’s trust, and ensuring success of upcoming initiatives.

Actions / Recommendations:

  • Completed a risk assessment that included confidential interviews with a wide variety of campus leaders and key stakeholders
  • Created a messaging architecture to align all university communications around institutional values, core beliefs about who they are, and what they are working to achieve
  • Developed a Campus Safety and Security website that included resources for students, faculty, and staff as well as newly simplified contact information and reporting options. The site also affirmed safety measures already in place and detailed the improvements yet to come.
  • Created new messaging for reputational recovery including those tailored for donors and supporters, alumni, and current members of the campus community.
  • Developed a less antagonistic communications strategy and approach regarding the fallout and litigation from the fired faculty member.


BMCG recommendations for reputational risk management and crisis communications allowed the university to successfully complete its strategic plan, repair and secure the president’s role with the Board of Trustees, and move forward on major initiatives including campus and college expansion.Additionally, based on recommendations from the risk assessment, campus safety leaders made upgrades and adjustments to improve campus security and brought awareness to programs already in place for the protection of students and employees. BMCG continues to work with this client on communications, reputational risk management, media relations, and board engagement.