Behind the Blue Ribbons

Huffington Post: Impact honored my piece, The Story Behind the Blue Ribbons, on its front page today. Here’s a teaser:

On Saturday September 1, the Penn State Nittany Lions will host the Ohio University Bobcats in their first football game of the season. While much has been said about the redesigned Penn State uniforms making their inaugural appearance this weekend, little has been mentioned regarding the origin of the blue ribbons now featured on the back of my schoolmates’ helmets.

The blue ribbon represents a grassroots effort created by two ordinary students that seeks to prioritize the protection of victims and the prevention of future sex abuse and negligence. Here is our story.

The full post is available at the following URL:

Freeh Report and Blue Out 2012

The Freeh Report was released Thursday morning, detailing the results of an independent investigation pertaining to the details of the Grand Jury Report and charges against Jerry Sandusky. It is clear that University leaders failed to stand up for those needing their help most.

My thoughts on the Freeh Report and this year’s Blue Out are now online through the Huffington Post:


This week is a whirlwind of conferences. I will be presenting on a panel about Penn State’s response to the Sandusky scandal at MICA (Wednesday) and at NAEA‘s National Conference (Friday)! Here’s one of the slides I made for my presentation on the Blue Out. (If you’re confused, check out the knowyourmeme page.)

Poster Exhibition Research Abstract

The Penn State Graduate Research Poster Exhibition is coming up, and I’ve just finished (and submitted) my abstract! I would love any feedback or pointers.

Highlights of the origins, interpretations, and influences of the Penn State Blue Out are analyzed by the graduate student co-founder and organizer to provide unequivocal access to a moment of effective grassroots activism. The Blue Out was the first and largest public response to the 2011 Sandusky molestation scandal at the Pennsylvania State University. Earlier in the year, fans were asked to wear white to the November 12 football game. This tradition, called a “White Out,” was intended to intimidate the opposing team. Students and community members began to support a “Blue Out” after Laura March discovered that blue was the nationally recognized color of child abuse prevention and proposed a change. The event provided a platform to distribute educational materials on child abuse, to collect funds for related charities, and to showcase creative expressions of solidarity with abuse victims and survivors. Only six days passed between the event’s inception and fruition.

Background information regarding the sexual abuse allegations is detailed and the researcher’s personal connection with the football program, school, and community is clarified. A vacuum of university communication immediately following the breaking news is questioned, particularly as it further sustained a culture of silence. Out of this officially mandated silence, the Blue Out emerged as a proactive response to the scandal. The campaign’s goals are then considered and evaluated.

As a community-wide event, the Blue Out demonstrated how positive social action can be fostered at the intersection of art education and instructional systems. Researching the visual culture and multimodal discourse that surrounded the event reveals how meaning is generated and disseminated within the context of digital communication. Visual culture theory enables the interpretation of the visual images, objects, events, and other cultural productions that were appropriated and reimagined by the Penn State community as a result of the Blue Out. Multimodal discourse analysis assesses the meanings generated through different media that promoted or criticized the event, such as digital photograph manipulation, blog posts, and social media commentary. Further examination of the social media response to the allegations questions the methods used by official outlets and the impact of censorship on public dialog. Other events influenced by the Blue Out are then examined, including a fundraising walk and the launch of a national children’s protection center at the university.

Here’s one of my favorite images to dissect through the lens of Visual Culture theory:

Speaking at NAEA!

One of my advisors made an appeal to the National Art Education Association to have a Penn State panel discuss the Sandusky scandal at our 2012 national conference–and guess who will be part of it! I’m very nervous, but excited to share what we’ve accomplished. Here are the details of our session:

DAY: Friday, March 2 
TIME: 3:00 – 4:20 PM
Best Practice Lecture
Former and Current Penn State Art Education Students and Faculty          
Laura March 
Yuha Jung
Lillian Lewis 
Natalia Pilato 
Wanda Knight
B. Stephen Carpenter, II
This session is a conversation with Art Education faculty and students to discuss how and what we, our students and our community, are doing in the shadow of the tragic series of events that resulted from the child molestation scandal at our university. The session is not limited to Penn State alone, but intended to serve as a public space where art education faculty and students from across the nation and internationally can gather for a time of healing and an open discussion about the egregious social injustice that occurred at our university.  Within a climate of silence perpetuated by academic, institutional, and corporate strongholds—those who failed to speak up and take action in defense of innocent, powerless children to speak for and defend themselves—Penn State art education refuses to remain without voice. We believe that the spectacle that is now Penn State presents a pedagogical moment and an opportunity to discuss the ways art educators can and must respond. We can only imagine the magnitude of this scandal and other injustices that will emerge. While much of the news media has rendered a negative image of our institution, we believe that it is imperative that the responsible and responsive actions of our students and faculty are shared and discussed within a larger cultural context. A most notable example of such action is the Blue Out—a community wide public event to raise awareness and fight child abuse, which was initiated by one of our graduate students in Art Education. We see in this community action the collective power of public pedagogy in the name of social justice and positive social action, and a first step among many as we begin a process of healing. We invite you to join us.

Semester Wrap Up

Now that was one busy semester. I took far too many classes, started working at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and organized the Blue Out. Here’s a collection of my favorite press on the Blue Out:

Deadspin Blog (my personal favorite): 
TMZ Interview (starts at 27:10):
WPSU Interview:
CDT article:
Collegian article:
ESPN Sports Center:

Here’s some more about the money we raised for Prevent Child Abuse, PA:
Penn State Live:
Onward State:

And here I am accepting that novelty check:

Now looking forward to a much needed break!