The College of William & Mary: Renew or Resign

5 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2009

See all articles by Gerry Yemen

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Erika Hayes James

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

This case, written from public sources, offers an opportunity to role-play a situation and challenge students to determine whether this event is a crisis. After months of meetings, the school's governing body decided not to renew the president's contract past July of 2008. Although the public had not yet been informed, the university president was told. Two days after being notified, W&M President Gene Nichol publically resigned effective immediately. No doubt, there would be sharp criticism from some and a sigh of relief from others. Questions about the board's decisions and actions were expected, and clear communication was needed. How should board of visitors' members prepare to respond publicly? Video of the role-play at our school is available as a teaching supplement.

Excerpt

UVA-OB-0956

THE COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY:

RENEW OR RESIGN

Being appointed a member of the board of visitors at the second oldest school in the United States was an honor that carried heavy responsibility. The College of William & Mary (W&M) was established by a royal charter in 1693 under King William and Queen Mary's reign in Great Britain. Located in Williamsburg, Virginia, the college was redesignated a university in 1967, but kept its name unchanged. Strong on tradition, the school could boast of educating such high-minded individuals as former U.S. presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler. Those overlooking the school's governance, chancellors Chief Justice Warren Burger, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Sandra Day O'Connor, offered equally impressive resumes.

Board members at W&M in the early part of 2008 had varied backgrounds in law, military service, business, and as founders of nonprofit organizations. Eleven members of the 17-member board were W&M alumni. The governor appointed those individuals to four-year terms as the legal governing body of the university. They had a fiduciary responsibility to faculty, students, and staff as well as to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia to make sure the university was properly administered for the benefit of its various stakeholders. One of the duties included hiring the university president and ensuring he or she administered the office properly.

After months of meetings, the board decided not to renew the current president's contract past July of 2008. Although the public had not yet been informed, the university president was told. No doubt, there would be sharp criticism from some and a sigh of relief from others. If you were a member of this board, how would you prepare for the fallout?

. . .

Keywords: Decision making, planning, responding crisis, stakeholder management, managing media, crisis leadership

Suggested Citation

Yemen, Gerry and James, Erika Hayes, The College of William & Mary: Renew or Resign. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0956. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1421126

Gerry Yemen (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Erika Hayes James

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-4796 (Phone)
434-924-0714 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/james.htm

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