On April 17 many Eastern students hung signs across their torsos, equipped themselves with information cards and kept their lips tightly shut.
Such actions were all part of participation in the National Day of Silence, a day of activism intended to protest against harassment of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT) students.
The Day of Silence was first held at the University of Virginia in 1996 and went nation-wide the next year. Participants take a vow of silence, typically for the duration of the school day, in an effort to “symbolically represent the silencing of LGBT students and their supporters,” according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the event’s official sponsor.
Organized by the campus group Refuge, Eastern students have been active in the Day of Silence for several years.
“It’s just a really important thing that needs to be done, especially on a Christian campus where getting rid of injustices is one of our main missions,” senior Refuge president Kylie Lezon said.
The signs worn by participants explained their vow of silence and the reasons behind it. Many carried cards with further information in an attempt to keep the conversation going even though they could not talk.
Throughout the day, students had the opportunity to write on a bright orange “Stop the Silence” poster. Some of the messages included “Let’s show Christ’s love Eastern!” and “Jesus’ love is not conditional.”
At some locations, the Day of Silence draws controversy and even protest, often from Christian leaders or groups, but the event was held peacefully and without resistance at Eastern.
Senior Jennifer Solomon said she was encouraged to see many students who are not members of Refuge participating or showing their support.
First-year Abbey DeSilva agreed, but said she was disappointed by the lack of faculty,, especially her own professors, who were willing to acknowledge or engage with Refuge members monitoring the display.
On the issue of homosexuality, she said, “There needs to be healthy civil dialogue.”