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Institutional Crisis Readiness as Perceived by Small College and University Senior Student Affairs Officers at NASPA Member Institutions

Philip D Covington, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this study was to examine current readiness plans of small colleges and universities through the eyes of Senior Student Affairs Officers and develop recommendations for institutional use. Plans were examined across both institutional size and type to gauge institutional readiness, and commonalities were sought in the areas of plan development and maintenance. This explanatory mixed-methods study utilized survey research methodology and phone interviews. Following the initial survey administration, five respondents participated in phone interviews focused on the development and maintenance of institutional crisis management systems. Unexpected delays in the research necessitated a second administration of the survey to provide more recent data. The researcher focused on four primary indicators of institutional crisis preparedness: (a) identification of the types of crises addressed by institutional plans, (b) crisis phases addressed by institutional plans, (c) crisis management systems in place, and (d) level of stakeholder involvement in institutional plans. The findings suggested that small colleges and universities generally are prepared to face crisis situations, as nearly every institution had a written crisis management plan and an established crisis management committee. Roughly three of every four small colleges and universities had taken a broad approach to their planning, as indicated by the presence of at least one written contingency plan in each of the four major categories of crises: natural, facility, criminal, and human. Additionally, the findings suggested that planning was reactive, rather than proactive, as noted by the limited attention given by institutions to the pre-crisis phase of planning. Private institutions were more confident in their overall level of preparedness for campus crises than public institutions. Additionally, confidence in the level of preparedness was highest at the largest institutions in the study. Interview participants focused on the level of comfort among the team of individuals charged with leading through institutional crises as critical. Lastly, interview participants acknowledged the need for outside expertise to bring focus and experience to planning.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Covington, Philip D, "Institutional Crisis Readiness as Perceived by Small College and University Senior Student Affairs Officers at NASPA Member Institutions" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3559478.