MSU's Crisis Forum: An Academic Conversation about Communication and the Abuse Scandal


Please join a group of colleagues to share our understanding of key communication issues related to the sex abuse scandal as it continues to unfold at MSU. We will meet at noon on Friday, February 9th, in the Quello Center Meeting Room. The Chatham House Rule will be followed. Bring a lunch if you wish. 

Since the sentencing of Larry Nasser, MSU officials and the institution itself have been the target of serious criticisms as well as venomous attacks, such as on social media. Given the serious harms to many victims and survivors, the toxic environment created around these events is understandable. But while the many and varied reactions to the discoveries and (in)actions over the last months and years are understandable, they put us – as members of this institution – in awkward situations unlike any that academics are accustomed. They range from: Should I wear my MSU tee shirt to should I speak with a reporter, and if so, what should I say? Is my career or my university going to be forever tarnished? Because we are a multi-disciplinary faculty with a College of Communication Arts & Sciences, we should have answers to these and many other often unasked big and little questions. Because we are academics, we should be asking these questions and more as we try to take positive steps forward. 

After informal discussion with colleagues, the Quello Center will offer to hold the first of what could be a series of conversations about the crisis. The first meeting will be designed to address questions about how we should communicate with external audiences, a question that repeatedly came up in discussions. Time permitting, we will then try to identify other questions on each of our minds. If this meeting is helpful, additional meetings will be held to discuss selected issues, with conversations kicked off when possible, by colleagues with particular expertise in the area, who are thinking about these issues. 

In due course, it might also be possible to discuss research or related studies that could help explain many of the psychological, organizational, and other social dynamics that could enable us to understand how this abuse was possible, and what could institutions, parents, or individuals do to reduce the likelihood of such disasters. Even though there are at least eight investigations of the sex abuse scandal launched already, it is not clear that any critical academic research is underway to help explain what happened.