Duct tape in various bright colors covered the mouths of demonstrators in Brower Student Center on Friday, decorated with derogatory words in black permanent marker.
The voluntarily mute students were participating in the 12th annual National Day of Silence (NDOS). NDOS is a day when students are silent to bring attention to the forced silence of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, questioning and intersex (GLBTQI) individuals in schools because of bullying or harassment, according to dayofsilence.org.
This year’s NDOS at the College was coordinated by Emily Carpenter, freshman music education major and chair of NDOS and National Coming Out Day for Prism.
“I learned a lot about people and how it is really hard to be silenced,” Carpenter said. “I wanted to bring attention to specific stories, and to have people outside of the GLBTQI community participate and learn something, too.”
Nationally, thousands of students vow to be silent and hand out cards that say, “I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies in schools. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by name-calling, bullying and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?” These “speaking cards” are available on dayofsilence.org, and are distributed by local organizers of NDOS.
Carpenter decided to coordinate something more than individual students taking vows of silence this year.
“There was a silent protest in Brower, when people wore signs around their necks with statistics, stories or quotes about others who had been silenced in the past,” Carpenter said. Some students also placed duct tape on their mouths.
According to Hannah Knight, freshman special education and psychology major, demonstrators were supposed to “write something on the tape to symbolize something somebody said to silence you, or any oppressive stereotype that keeps you from expressing who you really are.”
Jenn Harris, senior music education major, has participated in NDOS all her years at the College and liked the idea of the demonstration. She said, “Now people are reading stories and seeing the impact that silence has on people. It gives more meaning to the silence and really gets to (some people’s) hearts.”
This year’s NDOS was held in memory of Lawrence King, a student from California murdered in February by his classmate “because of his sexual orientation and gender expression,” according to dayofsilence.org. King was 15 when he was killed.
A table set up in the student center gave students an opportunity to sign a poster saying “We are not afraid.” The poster contained facts about the history of NDOS.
“We had more people sign our large poster this year than in any years past,” Carpenter said. Each year, the poster is displayed in the Prism Center.
After the protest, there was a Breaking the Silence demonstration at 5 p.m. This was a chance for people to reflect on the day. Carpenter intended for this part of the day to be an open forum for discussion.
Students shared stories about how the protest had affected them, or past stories about how they had been silenced previously.
Gregory Boyle, freshman music education major, told a story about someone participating in NDOS at his high school being called a derogatory name and injured.
“The incident really motivated me to participate,” Boyle said. “Members of the GLBTQI community may do it for themselves, but this showed me that there are (people outside) doing it for us, and that means worlds more to me.”
Next year, Carpenter hopes to coordinate the event again, and to “get more publicity about the event out to campus,” she said. “NDOS could be better next year if more people who aren’t Prism members know about it to demonstrate with us.”
Knight said, “Hopefully everyone will be more aware that there indeed is a silence, understand how to break that silence and understand why that silence must be broken. If this year’s NDOS changed one person in any way, made them reevaluate how they think and what they say, then I think it was successful.”