RHS Student Team Members Go Teal in Response to Sexual Assault

Published On: April 16, 2018

A campus that was once adorned in iconic Spartan green and white is now dripping in teal thanks to two RHS student team members who took ownership in the current climate of their campus and created the Go Teal movement.

These two MSU seniors are coworkers on RHS’ Information Services Creative Services team, roommates, classmates and, most recently, two of the five brains behind the teal development that is permeating campus and beyond.

As a Michigan State University student, how do you cope with the current environment on campus? When you’re equipped with a strong creative skillset and support system like Carlie Wirebaugh and Amanda McCafferty are, the solution is simple: create a movement.

In the beginning, the project was started by Larraine Fu, Tianyi Xie and alumna Yi Rong, three international advertising students who created a video of a wilting flower in reverse to symbolize sexual assault survivors. They approached McCafferty because they needed someone to contribute copywriting and wanted to make sure the message was conveyed correctly.

Wirebaugh recalled waiting for a ride home from class when the group was discussing the project. The team was still in early transition phases.

“I thought their ideas were so cool and wanted to get involved any way possible,” she said. “Even if they just want me to make ribbons, I want to be involved in some way.”

The project evolved beyond a video into its current interactional phase. Anyone can express their support by removing one of a teal ribbons from a display board, which in turn reveals the name of a survivor of former MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse.

The ribbons can then be worn in support and recognition of the survivors. Each person contributed their own original ideas to the movement. McCafferty suggest teal for the ribbons, a symbolic color representing sexual assault survivors. Rong put her videography skills to work alongside Xie who shot nearly all of the photography.

While brainstorming additional components to complement the video, Wirebaugh thought about what exactly the movement truly meant for her.

“I really wanted to call people to action and tell them to speak up if they see something,” she said. “[It means] if a friend is going through something, to be supportive or find them help within some resource.”

But, the age-old struggle of how to convey that message visually reared its head.

“That’s when painting teal on lips came into view,” Wirebaugh said. The colored mouths illustrate speaking up.

Go Teal campaign posters

Putting their creative skills to use was paramount for both because, while Go Teal began with a great idea, they had to find the right way of executing the follow-up to get people to approach it thoughtfully and with willingness to join in.

The two work collaboratively on projects through their positions within Creative Services. McCafferty, a student communication assistant, said she found inspiration right in her workplace from the Diversity and Inclusion teams.

“They have been taking initiative in residence halls and on campus to train staff correctly, especially relating to sexual assault awareness and preventative measures, including in the workplace,” she said.

And for Wirebaugh, a student graphic designer, she brought the balancing skills she uses at work to help with  the creation.

The hours the team devoted were entirely extracurricular and volunteer-based. Wirebaugh said her position at work helped teach her to manage multiple tasks and deadlines to get the project done efficiently and effectively.

“RHS helped me find that balance, and it made everything an easier transition,” she said.

And it appears it is only gaining steam. “When Amanda and I got really excited about creating the movement, we thought it would be cool to get RHS involved and maybe do a specialty mug or something like that,” Wirebaugh said.

She has been able to pitch a couple of Sparty’s travel mug designs to symbolize the movement. Wirebaugh explained that it’s very important to her and McCafferty that they keep the momentum going and not let it die with the news cycle.

“This will not be going away,” McCafferty said. “I will make sure of it.”

A Go Teal display at the Mid-Michigan Creative Alliance ADDY Awards in Lansing, Michigan this past March

The team is continuing to plan and execute new ideas to further their message and get their peers involved.

On Saturday, April 14, Go Teal partnered with The Riv in East Lansing to transform their Saturday TacoRama event into a swell of teal.

This is about “getting all the allies together and using the momentum that we currently have to grow,” McCafferty said. Utilizing the bar scene in East Lansing was more than just applying to the demographic. “Knowing alcohol is the number one date rape drug in America, Go Teal is partnering with bars to raise awareness and provide information on how you can prevent sexual assault. Let's stop the assault before it happens.”

The event began at 11 a.m. and attendees were encouraged to wear their teal to support survivors of sexual violence and to help prevent future assaults.

Wirebaugh and McCafferty designed a video that was posted on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to garner more attention to the Facebook event.

McCafferty called the partnership an “awareness, prevention and proactive event,” where they handed out their acclaimed teal ribbons and business card-style material on sexual assault prevention.

Go Teal business card

Go Teal put on this event with the hope that bars — especially those in college towns — will get BASA certified. BASA stands for Bartenders Against Sexual Assault, a nonprofit organization that trains bartenders on safe intervention and sexual assault sign recognition. Because of the team’s unyielding efforts, the Riv has promised to get their bartenders trained correctly.

Future plans in the works include the use of teal light bulbs around the neighborhoods of East Lansing.

This is about “getting all the allies together and using the momentum that we currently have to grow,” McCafferty said. “How cool would it be to be walking home alone from a bar or a party or even the library and to see a whole street full of teal light bulbs?”

Both continue to call their work a movement and not a campaign. Campaign sends the wrong message; it’s not going to end.

“It wasn’t just a campaign, it was a movement,” McCafferty said. “And my advertising background allowed me to showcase our message in a more creative, useful and effective way that made people want to interact with it.”

Go Teal changes bystanders' behavior and changes a culture by encouraging bystanders to speak up and intervene safely while also encouraging survivors to speak up and out.

As their graduation ceremonies approach, both students have found a new excitement in the way they view their future careers. Each expressed a drive to use their skills for good.

Because of the project, McCafferty wants to focus on social justice pieces and work on social marketing projects. She explained, for her, advertising isn’t just about selling a product anymore.

“It’s changing a consumer’s behavior,” she said. “I’ll have that skill set and I’ll know that I’m not just working on a product, I’m working on the brand and how [brands] can better themselves.”

Wirebaugh said being a part of this movement has brought her to a point where she wants to use her professional work to create awareness for causes she supports.

Throughout April, which happens to be sexual assault awareness month, keep an eye out for events or ways to get involved and keep the Go Teal momentum going through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Creators of Go Teal image
Go Teal creators (L-R): Larraine Fu, Amanda McCafferty, Tianyi Xie, Carlie Wirebaugh, Yi Rong