The recent turmoil caused by Larry Nassar and his enablers has negatively impacted various communities at Michigan State and around the nation. A lack of response from people in power added to distress, which prompted students to take action. Students at MSU demanded attention through protesting, painting the rock and voicing concerns at administrative meetings or town halls. A group of students from the College of Communication Arts & Sciences took a creative approach that has made a powerful impact and sparked a strong movement to eradicate sexual assault and abuse.
It all started when Yi Rong, Tianyi Xie and Larraine Fu attended a Friday Idea-A-Thon hosted by Professor Ross Chowles. In the wake of Larry Nassar’s trials in Ingham and Eaton Counties, morale and Spartan pride were dwindling on campus and in the East Lansing community. Chowles prompted attendees to think of a creative way to make something positive out of this horrible situation.
Rong, Xie and Fu developed an idea of honoring the survivors through a video of a wilting flower in reverse, showing a metaphorical regaining of confidence. They sought the help of Amanda McCafferty, a fellow student, to assist with PR and marketing for the project. McCafferty introduced Carlie Wirebaugh, another student, to complete their team of five.
The idea of honoring the survivors went a step further with posters. Fu shot photos of people with serious expressions, bare shoulders and teal-painted lips — a symbol of the vulnerability and exposure that results from a culture of victim shaming. These stark photos created a call to action for general society to speak up against sexual assault. The models portrayed in the Speak Up posters also shared their voices in the first Go Teal video: “Together, We Bloom.”
Xie also developed an idea to provide the community with a tangible, visible response: a black poster with every name of the known survivors who came forward, complete with a teal ribbon safety-pinned in front of them. The poster reads, “Out of the darkness, take a ribbon to acknowledge their strength.”
“We wanted to make sure we were sending the right message and not offending any of the survivors by putting their names on the posters,” McCafferty said. “We wanted to encourage their strength and acknowledge them, and what they’re doing for other survivors as well.”
In addition to the original location of the Comm Arts building, the Go Teal group displayed interactive ribbon posters across campus, including at the Business College Complex and the Hannah Administration Building.
The group even sent a ribbon poster to be showcased at the March 2018 Women in Advertising Conference in Chicago, which was presented by Professor Henry Brimmer. Another ribbon poster was proudly hung at the 2018 ADDY Awards in East Lansing.
The group’s main focus is to “create an environment that empowers everyone to speak out about sexual assault. We want the MSU community to come together as one to express our support for the survivors.” Rather than having a political motivation, the Go Teal group wants to foster a community that everyone is a part of, whether they agree with administrative decisions or not.
The group has already gained a lot of positive attention and appreciation of their efforts to make MSU a better place; professors have donated out-of-pocket for supplies, while friends and fellow students have volunteered to help with everything from cutting ribbons to being models.
Although every original Go Teal group member is graduating this year or has already graduated, they aren’t worried about the initiative changing. “We see it as a movement, not about us as individuals,” Wirebaugh said. “It would be cool to have a group dedicated to keeping the movement alive, but it doesn’t have to be exactly how we’ve been doing things.”
In lieu of donations directly to the Go Teal group, they encourage the community to donate to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. To keep up with their movement find them on Instagram and Twitter @_goteal. For more on the Larry Nassar scandal and beyond, check out our blog at myingmag.com.