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Crisis Communications — UCI Willed Body Program
In 1999, the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Willed Body Program was under investigation by the County Sheriff’s office for alleged mismanaged of donated cadavers. The allegations claimed that seven spines were sold unethically for $5,000 to a hospital in Arizona and the ashes of donated bodies given to donor families did not actually belong to them. The crisis caused great concern among donor families and alumni of UCI, which could affect alumni donations.
To help manage the situation, MGA directly developed talking points for the dean and the chancellor. MGA also conducted media training for nine different departments of UCI to help prepare them for the negative publicity and speculation by the media, noting in message points that while the University was cooperating fully, the scope was smaller than incidents that occurred on the UCLA campus. Additionally, a hotline was also established for the general public to gather more information and address concerns of a complete investigation.
The media speculation waned after two weeks of coverage, most notably the Orange County Register, the publication most responsible for the negative publicity. The Register ran one final story, comparing the UCI situation to a similar occurrence at UCLA.