SBJ/December 12-18, 2011/Colleges

Crisis lesson: Deal with problems quickly

Most people have an opinion about how Penn State and Syracuse handled their recent crises.

University of Texas President Bill Powers said his takeaway from the scandals was to be more forthcoming.

“The moment something goes wrong, you have a press conference about it and get it out and deal with it,” Powers said. “Almost all the problems that we’re seeing were exacerbated by not getting them out and dealing with them.”

Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer agreed.

“When you see something coming, the right move is to get out ahead of it, to see it coming, to know when the announcement is going to be made and to work collegially with whoever is bringing it forward,” he said.

Vada Manager, senior vice president of APCO Worldwide, said he was surprised that Penn State, in particular, seemed so unprepared.

“It appeared that there was clearly a lack of preparation,” Manager said. “If you have an investigation going on for two years, and your administrators and people are being interviewed by law enforcement officials, you would appear to have been ready when the time comes.”

Syracuse Athletic Director Daryl Gross defended his school’s response.

“If there’s a positive out of it it’s that there’s an awareness about the policies you need to put into place to have your institution handle these issues,” Gross said. “You can be pre-emptive and proactive, and you can put all these things into place, but you’ve got to be nimble when there’s a crisis. Obviously, there’s nothing in the manual that talks about the kind of issues that have been coming up lately, but I felt that, as an institution, we were prepared to take it on.”

— John Ourand

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