“In early 2018, hundreds of women were finally able to share their story.”
This is the beginning statement of a new installation in the Michigan State University College of Education that focuses on sexual assault survivors, questions, concerns, hurts and hopes through a growing community voice. Installed in both Erickson Hall and IM Circle, the “I March, I Stand: Community Living Art Exhibit” is a response to the tragedy of years of sexual assault from former MSU doctor Larry Nassar and broader issues of institutional and leadership responses from many in the college and community.
In addition, the exhibit shares details about the Feb. 6, 2018 march on the Hannah Administration Building by some members of the College of Education faculty, staff and students. Expressing their individual thoughts, these marchers shared statements of why they were marching on teal cards that they adhered to walls, windows and doors of the building.
“I continue to fight because I believe in our ability to do and be better,” said Associate Professor Terah Venzant Chambers in a message to the college community prior to the march. She helped co-write and deliver a letter to Interim President John Engler and the MSU Board of Trustees on concerns and processes or areas that need reform. Both the letter and the cards were a form of protest in hope for institutional change.
In part, the letter expressed: “As a College of Education, our primary focus has and always will be on students: our students who are hurting, angry, confused, and, for some, looking to faculty for guidance.”
The march inspired the “I March, I Stand” exhibit, which aims to continue the movement for institutional change and, above all else, seeks to help survivors heal.
“I Stand For…”
The exhibit was brought to the college through the dedicated work of several people, including Chris Thelen, a research assistant in the Education Policy Center and a doctoral student in the Education Policy program, and Assistant Professor Alyssa Dunn.
The purpose of the exhibit is to provide a space for people to reflect, and give an avenue where individuals can freely, and anonymously, express what they stand for on campus. In addition to some of the original “I March For…” cards shared during the March on Hannah, the exhibit provides “I Stand For…” teal cards and other writing spaces for participants to reflect, engage and share.
While the original event was, indeed, a physical march, the exhibit focuses on the multiple ways that one might support the survivors of sexual assault, improve the cultural climate at MSU and advocate for other justice-oriented causes on and off campus. Visitors to the exhibit can share how they literally or metaphorically march for, stand for and support these various causes in their own lives, personally and professionally.
“Our campus is hurting right now. For far too long, survivors of sexual violence and their supporters have been silenced by an administration that protects its brand over our community,” said Thelen. “‘I March, I Stand’ is about channeling our pain and anger into an individual and collective act of voice and resistance. I want every survivor on this campus to know that we will continue to fight for justice for them, no matter what it takes.”
As more thoughts and feelings are submitted on the provided cards and community writing spaces, the exhibit will continue to grow. Installed on March 13, the Erickson Hall exhibit has more than doubled in size, and new thoughts continue to be added daily in both locations.
“I hope the exhibit can stand as a living and ongoing reminder that change needs to happen at the individual and institutional level,” Dunn added. “We wanted to stand in solidarity with survivors on campus and illustrate that the College of Education community was committed to being advocates and activists for change at MSU and beyond.”
The “I March, I Stand: Living Community Art Exhibits” are now on display at Erickson Hall (by rooms 133 F and G) and IM Circle (by room 134 and the first-floor gym). Participants wishing to add their voices may contribute at these locations, or online using #IMarchIStand.
A Closer Look at “I March, I Stand”
Hadley Dunn and Venzant Chambers co-wrote a Faculty Voice for MSU Today expanding the conversation further, sharing many other ways that the MSU community can and should continue to fight for equity.
Please note that the views, opinions and positions expressed in the “I March, I Stand” exhibits do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions and positions of Michigan State University or the College of Education. To learn about actions MSU is taking surrounding these and other topics, visit: msu.edu/ourcommitment