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The Making of 'Go Teal'

Allison Bertram

The Making of 'Go Teal'

What started as one project among a small group of MSU students has blossomed into a movement to fight sexual abuse and honor its survivors.

The news of Larry Nassar’s crimes and other subsequent allegations of sexual assault and harassment on campus has caused turmoil among various communities at Michigan State University and around the nation. Dissatisfaction with the response from people in power added to these feelings of distress and prompted many students to take action. 

One creative response by a group of students from the College of Communication Arts & Sciences has made a particularly powerful impact, sparking a movement to eradicate sexual assault and abuse that its creators hope will last beyond their time on campus.

It all started when Yi Rong, Tianyi Xie and Larraine Fu attended a Friday Idea-A-Thon hosted by advertising and public relations Professor Ross Chowles.

In the wake of 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 the idea of honoring the survivors through a video of a wilting fl ower in reverse, showing a metaphorical regaining of confidence. They sought the help of Amanda McCafferty to assist with PR and marketing for the project. McCafferty introduced Carlie Wirebaugh 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 who posed for the posters also shared their voices in the first Go Teal YouTube video, “Together, We Bloom.”

Xie also developed an idea to provide the community with a tangible, visible response: a black poster displaying the name of every known abuse survivor who publicly came forward, with a teal ribbon safety-pinned in front of each name.

The poster reads, “Out of the darkness, take a ribbon to acknowledge their strength.”


Student with a Go Teal Poster
MSU students hosted a variety of sexual assault prevention and awareness events in April 2018.
Students standing in a shape of a ribbon
Students wear teal shirts and stood in a shape of a ribbon
ribbons on a poster
Student produced an awareness campaign titled Go Teal
teal ribbons pinned to a black poster

“We wanted to make sure we were sending the right message and not offending any of the survivors by using their names on these 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 display space in the Communication Arts & Sciences building, the Go Teal group hung the interactive ribbon posters across campus, including at the Hannah Administration Building.

The group even sent a ribbon poster to be showcased at the March 2018 Women in Advertising Conference in Chicago, where it was presented by Professor Henry Brimmer.

Go Teal’s goal 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,” Wirebaugh said.

Rather than promoting a political motivation, group members said they strive to foster a community that everybody is a part of, whether they agree with administrative decisions or not. The group’s efforts have gained positive responses; 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 all of the original Go Teal group members have graduated, they aren’t worried about the initiative changing. “We see it as a movement, not 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.” 

Allison Bertram, ’18, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in professional writing from the College of Arts and Letters, and is an editorial assistant for Spartan.

This story originally appeared in Ing Magazine’s April/May 2018 issue. Since then, two edits were made to the piece, acknowledging the graduation of the students associated with the article. 

Contributing Writer(s): Allison Bertram

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