How MSU Students are Challenging the University’s Culture of Silence

Spread the love

In 1997, Larissa Boyce told Kathie Klages, who was then MSU’s head gymnastics coach and the head of the MSU junior gymnastics program that Boyce was a member of, that an MSU physician named Larry Nassar had touched her inappropriately during medical treatment. At 16 years old, Boyce put her trust in Klages, a woman Boyce referred to during her victim impact statement on Jan. 19 as someone she “looked up to. She was the person I thought had my back.” Instead of protecting Boyce, Klages discouraged her from filing a formal complaint, convincing her that the medical treatment was legitimate and that she had just misunderstood Nassar’s actions.

Though Boyce was the first woman to report Nassar, she was far from the last. This much was made evident during Nassar’s Ingham County sentencing hearing, which took place Jan. 16-Jan. 24 of this year. At that hearing, 156 women and girls came forward detailing stories eerily similar to Boyce’s: they were assaulted, and then they were silenced. Women on MSU’s campus, women involved in gymnastics and other sports on campus, and women coming to MSU for medical help were repeatedly let down by those in positions to help them. And it wasn’t just Klages. A Detroit News report outlines as many as 14 people who, over the past 20 years, were notified of Nassar’s abuse — and did nothing. The inaction of athletic trainers, coaches, a university police detective and others will forever affect MSU. But for the time being, the students won’t let it define their university.

The New York Daily News stated that “the students are the only ones acting like adults in response to the Larry Nassar scandal,” and we find that to be true to this day. On Jan. 26, students rallied at the rock to show support for the victims of Nassar. After students, professors, and athletes spoke, the crowd marched, homemade signs in hand, to the Hannah Administration Building, chanting “silence is compliance.” Later that same night, on a different part of campus, hundreds of students gathered at the Breslin Center to watch the Spartans take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Student leaders provided teal t-shirts to every member of the Izzone and passed them out as students walked into the stadium. The entire student section was participating in the #IzzoneTealOut to show their support for the survivors. The State News, The Detroit News and even CBS News wrote articles detailing these two events and commending the students for rallying together to show that this is important to us. Our University, however, hasn’t said a word about students coming together in this way. The announcer at the Spartans vs. Badgers game didn’t even acknowledge it.

What more will it take? The students want to talk about this. The students want the survivors to find peace and justice. The students want to make sure that this never happens on our campus again. If our administration won’t even comment on our efforts, what will it take for them to recognize that the students see a problem and actively want to fix it?

 

Maggie Morgan is a junior majoring in Professional Writing with a concentration in Creative Writing. Hobbies include: spending all of her money on concert tickets, trying to convince Green Day to let her be their friend, geeking out about music history, dreaming of writing for Rolling Stone. You can follow her on instagram at @swaggie_.maggie.

 

Emily Orlando is a podcast lover, a Food Network connoisseur and a senior majoring in professional writing with a focus in editing and publishing—in that order.

Tags: action, MSU, Nassar, sexual assault, students