Date of Award

Summer 8-2021

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Vanessa Murphree, Ph.D.

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

John Meyer, Ph.D.

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Steven Venette, Ph.D.

Committee Member 3 School



The purpose of this study was to conduct a contextual analysis of press releases published by Michigan State University following a 2016 scandal that accused long-term physician Larry Nassar of sexually abusing more than 250 young women and girls under the guise of medical care. Specifically, the researcher was concerned with the image repair strategies employed by Michigan State as it attempted to respond to accusations that university personnel were aware of Nassar’s actions and had failed to act. The institution found itself responding to a series of distinct, yet related, crises, which were documented in a series of press releases, serving as the units of analysis for this body of research.

The analysis revealed that the university employed multiple repair strategies to respond to the Nassar case and subsequent scandals, as did individuals speaking on behalf of the institution. All five image repair discourse categories – Denial, Evading Responsibility, Reducing Offensiveness, Corrective Action, and Mortification – presented – although not all subcategories were present. The researcher found that the most employed strategy was Reducing Offensiveness followed by Corrective Action. A secondary goal of this study was to encourage the development of further research on higher education crisis communication, as current literature suggests that colleges and universities are typically reactive in selecting a crisis strategy response plan.