Communication Failures at Penn State



Dr. Jeremy Fyke, a Communications Studies professor and the moderator of Lambda Pi Eta at Marquette University, gave a presentation on the communication surrounding the Sandusky scandal at Penn State University. Dr. Fyke gave the presentation to a full house, including over 200 students and faculty on April 22, at 7 p.m. in Marquette Hall.


According to Dr. Fyke, whose research was recently published in the Journal of Business Ethics, language use and a culture of silence deeply impacted how the situation played out and was handled overall.



 Dr. Fyke presenting on the communication surrounding the Penn State Scandal on April 22, 2014.


During his presentation, Dr. Fyke covered a variety of topics starting with critical upward communication and organizational culture. This case was especially interesting because the culture largely affected the outcome. All of the Penn State University employees involved in the incidents at hand were male, which leads outsiders to believe that the environment was a “macho” one, which may have played a role in the number of euphemisms used to describe what happened.


As the presentation progressed Dr. Fyke continued to discuss the role of euphemism in ethics, which was a very interesting topic that I had never specifically thought about. The phrase “linguistic camouflage” was used to describe euphemisms, which perfectly fit the situation. At Penn State, much of what happened was referred to as “horsing around” with Joe Paterno going as far as to say, “Sandusky and the boy were engaged in nothing more than horseplay.” The use of these euphemisms masked the seriousness of the issues at hand, and was just one of several topics covered by Dr. Fyke.


Overall, Dr. Fyke’s presentation was outstanding. His dissection of a topic in a different manner than I had previously seen was very thorough and eye opening. I enjoyed this presentation very much, and am happy I attended the event!