University of Virginia in turmoil after ousting popular president in secrecy

Last week’s firing of the school’s president outraged students and faculty. Here are some basic communication lessons it should have remembered. UPDATE.

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The University of Virginia (U.Va.) which Jefferson founded, is in turmoil after the board of visitors ousted Teresa Sullivan, the popular president of the university, amid a shroud of secrecy.

It looks increasingly likely that Sullivan will be reinstated following an outcry by students, faculty and alumni. But the damage to U.Va.’s image will take some time to heal.

Not surprisingly, the debacle is rich in communication lessons:

1. Not communicating with your organization’s stakeholders is never a good strategy.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, news media obtained emails from members of the U.Va. board of visitors that revealed they hired a Washington D.C., consulting firm for a “strategic communication project” at $750 an hour. The “strategy” was to announce Sullivan’s forced resignation without explaining the reasons behind the decision.

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