gay; lesbian; bi-sexual; transgendered; University of Rhode Island
The Day of Silence is a day of silent protest for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender equal rights and treatment in schools. It has been in action annually since 1996 when students at the University of West Virginia decided to take action into their own creative hands. Now, 450,000 students from kindergarten to college spend their day in silence together. This hardly makes holding this program at the University of Rhode Island an original concept. However, for a school who has never observed such a day before and a school with a lack of GLBT involvement, this day could be monumental. As a campus with over 100 student clubs and organizations, this day has the potential to be huge. With so many students already actively involved, especially in the social rights sphere, holding a Day of Silence at URI could be the perfect tool for creating change for GLBT rights in our community and beyond. If you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender student at any age, odds are that you live your life in a certain degree of silence and oppression. Though comfort levels of identity expression span a wide variety of manifestations, statistics do not lie. The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) conducted a National School Climate Survey in 2003 which found some astonishing results. The report showed that 4 out of 5 GLBT students reported verbal, sexual, or physical harassment at school and more than 30% of GLBT students admitted missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. This threat does not need to come in the form of beatings or death threats, though that has been known to happen more than once. Name-calling, harassment, and bullying on the basis of an assumed sexual identity all contribute to a student’s lack of comfort in being themselves. The Day of Silence can educate classmates on the damaging effects of GLBT harassment and demand a more nondiscriminatory educational environment. College should be a safe and inclusive environment for all, and though URI is not a hateful campus, some rapid and massive change needs to happen. Planning and executing a Day of Silence event at URI is no small task for a single student unassociated with a Student Senate recognized organization. I attained funding through the Real Change Grant sponsored by Campus Compact, and also through the College of Human Science & Services after writing letters requesting funding to the majority of departments on campus. I then set about recruiting people to participate in the day. I did this through social networking, flyering campus, utilizing media, and attending many student organizations’ meetings. The Day of Silence can be done creatively with minimal resources. I will set up one introductory meeting, and one meeting preceding the event with training and simulations so participants are prepared. I will have a booth with an educational display in the Union on the day of the event and signifiers such as t-shirts and explanatory stickers. There will also be a “Breaking the Silence” debriefing meeting and activities after 5pm. This is a unique and fresh program to hold at the University of Rhode Island. The time is now to create change in people’s minds and plant the seeds for tomorrow’s acceptance, and this campus is more than ready to have its eyes opened to the silence.