- The public and bitter separation of UC-Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi is a case study on how systems and campuses can botch crisis communications.
- Katehi miscalculated in using campus and contracted communications expertise to salvage her image following a controversial campus incident involving police, but system president Janet Napolitano also erred in taking personnel action steps against her in the media.
- Executives should be conscious of the lasting images associated with doubling down against board or CEO personnel decisions, and public crisis management.
As divided as they were over a slate of controversial issues, Napolitano and Katehi will be forever linked as a teaching example of how to destroy executive trust and how to turn a one-week story into a months-long lead on the nightly news.
Similar incidents have played out for different presidents with different outcomes, including James Ramsey at the University of Louisville and David Wilson at Morgan State University. But for all cases in which presidents fight to keep jobs, the campus becomes all too familiar with details of their missteps, real and perceived, and engaging media makes sure that constituents at future hiring institutions are fully aware as well.