Image Restoration for University Leaders’ Public Health COVID-19 Response: A Case Study of Notre Dame

Image Restoration for University Leaders’ Public Health COVID-19 Response: A Case Study of Notre Dame

R. Tyler Spradley, Ph.D.

Department of Languages, Cultures, and Communication, Stephen F. Austin State University

Do as I say, not as I do is a common phrase that applies to the case of Notre Dame’s president as he began the Fall 2020 semester chastising students for gathering in large groups off campus leading to the spread of COVID-19 while he, just a month later, gathered unmasked in the U.S. White House Rose Garden to celebrate the nomination of a Notre Dame alum to the Supreme Court.  This study draws upon image restoration strategies in crisis response literature to examine Notre Dame and its president’s public response to both the two-week move to remote education in Fall 2020 following COVID-19 outbreak among its students and the unmasked attendance to an event that resulted in Notre Dame’s president testing positive for COVID-19.  Overall, evasion of responsibility and corrective action typified the university’s response to students’ behaviors that led to public health risk, but mortification along with contradictory messages evading responsibility typified the individual response of the university’s president that led to public health risk.  Of interest to the case is the lack of religious appeal intertwined in the  image restoration strategies used in the president’s apology yet the use of religious appeal in the university’s accusations against student public health behavior.  Given that Notre Dame is a religiously affiliated university and the president is clergy, the inconsistent use of religious appeal may undermine the image restoration rhetoric of the president.

Keywords: COVID-19, crisis response, image restoration, university public health response

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How to cite this article:
R. Tyler Spradley.Image Restoration for University Leaders’ Public Health COVID-19 Response: A Case Study of Notre Dame. International Research Journal of Public Health, 2020; 4:47. DOI: 10.28933/irjph-2020-10-0906


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