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When silence proves to be golden

Emily Hepner
Features Editor

When it comes to combating hate, most people would suggest some kind of defense against it. “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” is the old saying of encouragement in order to protect yourself from any hatred you may experience; however, others would suggest just the opposite, a more “golden” safeguard: silence. While for some people silence can be seen as an unproductive method to make a point, for others it can speak volumes.

In 1996 students at the University of Virginia decided that staying quiet would make more of a point than speaking out when it came to the injustices against members of the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, and Asexual/Androgynous/Allies) community. The students were inspired to stay silent after taking a class on non-violent protest at their university, explains the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). After involving almost 150 students, the organizers decided to make their efforts national in 1997 and got nearly 100 universities and colleges involved, leading to the formation of the National Day of Silence. Today, with the help of growing GSAs (Gay-Straight or Gender-Sexuality Alliance), the day is known widely across the world.

The National Day of Silence was started back in 1996 at the University of Virginia and has since spread all across the world (Photo courtesy of glsen.com)
The National Day of Silence was started back in 1996 at the University of Virginia and has since spread all across the world (Photo courtesy of glsen.com)

GLSEN explains that the event is “designed to raise awareness and to protest the silence” faced by LGBTQIA people. This is a student-run event that brings attention to anti-LGBTQIA name-calling, bullying and harassing that occurs in schools. In 2013, the GLSEN conducted a survey and found that over 80 percent of LGBTQIA students who responded to the survey reported some kind of verbal, sexual and/or physical harassment. Over half of the students reported that they felt unsafe in their schools because of their sexual orientation.

If you feel this is something that should come to an end, join the Millersville University community as they celebrate their “Silencing the Hate” week. This week is dedicated to calling “attention to all kinds of hate and discrimination on campus.” The event kicked off Monday, Apr. 13, with various events such as “Anatomy of Pronouns,” “The Reality of Trans Life” and “LGBT+ People of Color Panel Discussion,” as well as motivational speakers Angela Braden and Nicole Kelly. The event lasts all week and will end on Friday, Apr. 17, with the day of silence.

All week long, you can find a table stationed outside of the juice bar or in front of the school store, both located in the Student Memorial Center, that will be offering Silence the Hate week t-shirts to be drawn on. Participants are then encouraged to wear these, or a plain white t-shirt, for the color fight on the Quad Friday from 4 – 4:30 p.m.

International Education Week

Besides staying silent, the GLSEN offers other ways you can show your support for the day of silence. They encourage participants to use the “Day of Silence” hashtag on Twitter and Instagram explaining why this day is important to them, and to also use their day of silence image as their new profile picture and/or cover photo on Facebook. Those participating in the day are welcomed to carry around a little card with them that explains why they have chosen not to speak, so that others may respect their silence. GLSEN recommends that students inform their teachers or professors as to why they are not speaking and to inquire if they can communicate through a written method.

If you are a student at Millersville who falls within the LGBTQIA community, there are many safe spaces and resources available:

LGBTQIA Committee: This committee is a part of the larger President’s Commission on Cultural Diversity and Inclusion. Their goal is “to foster a University climate that promotes equity and inclusion for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender/transsexual, questioning/queer, intersex, and allies/androgynous/asexual (LGBTQIA) community.”

Safe Zone Program: This program establishes a very visible network of university who are supportive of members of the campus community who are a part of the LGBTQIA spectrum. You may recognize these members by their rainbow colored squares that say “MU” in the center.

MU Allies: MU Allies is also known as the campus’ Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA). The Allies focuses on advocating for people of LGBTQIA support for anyone who falls in the spectrum, as well as a place for students to come together and socialize without any judgment and discrimination.

Office of Social Equity and Diversity: The Office of Social Equity and Diversity looks “to provide leadership for campus equity and diversity issues and serve as advocates for students and employees.”