Crisis Response? Auburn University’s Struggles with Diversity

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This paper will be a case study of how Auburn University has handled campus diversity issues in times of crisis. Specific campus examples – the 2001 Halloween incident (fraternity brothers dressing in black face), an announcement of diversity as a core value of the institution and diversity plan, the firings of several African-American personnel, and response to the Fisher Report (a report from an outside consultant giving ways for the university to better itself including the need for diversity), – will be discussed. In order to better understand each situation, relevant artifacts such as announcements, memos, reports, and local newspaper accounts will be examined. Using the tenets of image and impression management, it appears that the university missed opportunities to shape its image as an institution concerned about diversity. The authors will offer suggestions for what was learned about campus diversity based on the university administrations’ actions or lack there of.


Keywords: Diversity, University, Crisis
Stream: Representations: Media, Communications, Arts, Literature
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Crisis Response?


Dr. Brigitta R. Brunner

Associate Professor, Department of Communication and Journalism, Auburn University
AL, USA

Dr. Brigitta R. Brunner is an associate professor in the Department of Communication & Journalism at Auburn University. She has been on faculty at Auburn since 2002 and teaches public relations courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Brunner earned her BA in marketing communications at Juniata College (1993), her MA in communication at Auburn University (1995) and her PhD in mass communication with a concentration in public relations at the University of Florida (2000). Brunner’s research focuses on public relations and diversity issues. She has published in various communication journals including the Journal of Public Relations Research, Public Relations Review, Public Relations Quarterly, The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication and the Journal of Communication Management.

Dr. Mary Helen Brown

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Communication and Journalism, Auburn University
AL, USA

Mary Helen Brown. Ph.D. (University of Texas at Austin), is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism at Auburn University. Her special areas of interest are organizational communication, storytelling, and sense making.

Ref: D08P0390