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Controversial "Conversations": Analyzing a Museum Director’s Strategic Alternatives When a Famous Donor Becomes Tainted

Jennifer Rinella, Katie Fischer Clune, Tracy Blasdel


This teaching case places students in the role of Dr. Johnnetta Cole, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, as she determines how to respond to a situation in which Bill Cosby—well-known entertainer, spouse of a museum advisory board member, donor, and lender of a significant number of important pieces of art on display at the Museum—has been charged with sexual misconduct. Representing the Museum, the director must weigh the cost of appearing to support her friends the Cosbys against the value of displaying one of the world’s largest private collections of African American art. This case extends stakeholder theory by utilizing Dunn’s (2010) three-factor model for applying stakeholder theory to a tainted donor situation.

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arts administration; philanthropy; stakeholder theory; crisis communication; nonprofit leadership; tainted donor; ethical decision-making

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