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    October 2019

    Developing Your Community College’s Resiliency

    Resiliency can ensure your community college’s long-term strength and flexibility as you adapt and bounce back after a crisis. During a recent podcast with the Association of Community College Trustees, Justin Kollinger, a risk management consultant with United Educators (UE), discussed the following steps colleges can take in advance of an emergency to ensure they will be more resilient when an emergency occurs:

    1. Set up a plan for communication flow during an emergency. How your college communicates information to students, faculty, and the community following a crisis is critical to protecting your college’s reputation. Create a plan that identifies who’s going to issue statements (including backups) and how key talking points will be developed. Ensure that stakeholders know to check texts and emails in the event of a crisis. Examine UE’s guide to create and improve your communications plan.

    2. Ensure written plans are available. It’s easy to walk into a board meeting and say your college has a plan. But board members should ask critical questions such as, “What do plans entail and how flexible are they? What key stakeholders know the plan exists?” In addition, colleges must understand that it’s not sufficient to have written plans — those plans must be available where faculty and staff will remember to find them. Board members can play an important role by asking how staff will use plans, not just what the plans say.

    3. Be adaptable in crises. Have the flexibility to consider hiring a public relations firm and/or attorneys. Some institutions can be reluctant to bring in outside help, citing their confidence that the college can handle an issue internally. But don’t let overconfidence get in the way of getting an objective opinion. A cool head may be needed to step back and take a strategic approach.

    4. Conduct tabletop exercises. Think of risk management as a muscle. The more you practice in advance of a crisis, the more prepared you’ll be when a crisis occurs. Even if incidents in practice situations don’t occur on your campus, the prep work may increase readiness for a different kind of crisis. For example, the exercise may identify communications gaps for any incident. The exercise also may educate school leaders where to find — such as a folder within shared files — procedures for handling emergencies.

    5. Have backups and succession plans in place. Ensure the “next person up” can take the reins in a crisis situation. Some colleges practice not having key leaders available. It’s like a physical exercise that targets a very specific muscle. The muscle is probably underworked, but when you need it, you really need it to be ready.

    Every community college’s path to resilience will look different because every college has a different mission, different strengths, and a different context. However, every college will face a crisis at some size or scale.
    An intentional and practiced approach can help the college recover and even thrive despite challenging circumstances.


    Resources

    Podcast: What Trustees & Presidents Need to Know About Risk Management Part 1

    Podcast: What Trustees & Presidents Need to Know About Risk Management Part 2

    Safeguarding Our Communities from Sexual Predators: What College Presidents and Trustees Should Ask

    Crisis Response Planning: A Guide for Conducting Tabletop Exercises

    Reputational Risk Toolkit

    2019 Large Loss Report


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