“tone” and effectively communicating the intentions of the
institution. In the later stages of the crisis, the primary communication challenge involves making meaning of the event
for others and engendering the proper perspective to effectively tell the institution’s story.
Constituents, including faculty, staff, and students, often need
assistance in dealing with the stress of a crisis. The crisis must
be framed in the proper perspective to establish the appropriate orientation for campus constituency groups. Students who
are traumatized may exhibit many issues, and policies and
processes for students to leave and return to school must be
implemented. Staffing concerns, such as having the right individuals in certain roles and deciding whether or not to utilize
external staff, pose additional challenges. External groups,
including the media, affected families, emergency response
personnel, and volunteer groups must have access to a coordinated information exchange, and leaders must deal with
the natural confusion generated by their presence, negotiate
appropriate relationships with them, and determine lines of
authority. Leaders are challenged to contain the media’s presence and respond to the national attention it creates.
the academic calendar, developing processes by which students
can leave and return to school in unconventional ways, and
Given the significant challenges inherent in leading an institution through a crisis, SSAOs may want to consider the following strategies to guide their leadership behavior.
Garner;necessary;resources.;Three types of resources
are particularly important during a crisis: information, human
resources, and influence. Information is critical in the early
stages of the crisis. Initiating methods to rapidly assess what is
transpiring, locating leaders where they can receive information from a variety of sources, establishing a command center,
engaging experts, expanding contacts to include individuals
with valuable information, and visiting the site of events to
gain first-hand knowledge of the situation are all specific strategies employed by leaders.
Leaders can utilize several human resource-related
strategies: assemble the right staff based on needs and tasks,
employ temporary assignments and structures, and give staff
recognition and support. Leaders must be intentional about
using staff members wisely in driving strategies related to
A primary source of influence is the university or college
president. His or her connections with those who can provide
financial resources, substantiate decisions, and drive processes
throughout the crisis are invaluable.
Leaders must be intentional about using staff members wisely in driving strategies related to human resources.
creating temporary policies may be required during a crisis.
Relationships also must be altered. Campus leaders who had
not worked cooperatively before may be thrust into decision-making teams. Relationships with members of external agencies, whether established before or during the crisis, reach a
higher level of interdependence during a crisis.
Managing;transitions.;A plan is required to guide
actions through and beyond a crisis. In the early stages of a
crisis, leaders attempt to shift from reactionary responses to
intentional problem solving. As the crisis evolves, leaders are
challenged with decisions regarding how to mourn appropriately, reclaim the sites of traumatic events, resume academic
activities, and refocus staff on the educational mission.
Long-term;effects;of;the;crisis.;As part of the long-term life of the crisis, leaders are challenged to mitigate legal
issues, deal with the impact of the crisis on enrollment and
retention, conduct long-term care for multiple groups, implement appropriate rituals for anniversary events, restore the
learning environment, and put the crisis in perspective for the
campus and community. Long-term challenges also include
responding to ongoing crisis-related developments and
such as coordinating evacuations, must be the driving force for
decision making. Leaders must address the fear students are
experiencing without exacerbating the situation. Educational
campaigns and other supervised outlets for students to address
fears can contribute to a safer environment.
Lead;planning;and;policy;development.;Policy development is a powerful means of communicating an institution’s core values and bringing structure to chaotic situations.
Policies are clear signals of an institution’s regard for victims
and their predicaments.
Leaders must engage in pre-planning with as much attention to the process by which decisions are made as to the
actual plans. It is critical for leaders to exercise intentionality
in both planning and problem solving to define a leadership
agenda and direction before a crisis occurs. Shared governance
can enhance successful planning, as can frequent, regular
meetings before and during a crisis. Policy development,
analysis, and enforcement should be part of the planning process, including policies to suspend and then resume academic
activities. Those dealing with families of slain, missing, or
traumatized students or staff must formulate policies regarding
families’ access to different levels of leadership within the insti-