Day of Silence a success

Friday, April 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:17 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Carol Snively spent Thursday in silence. Her phone would ring, but she couldn't pick it up. Her colleagues asked her questions, but she just looked at them blankly. Throughout the day, she used sign language and notes to communicate.

When those didn't work, she just gave up. For someone who is "very vocal," keeping silent wasn't easy.

Snively, an assistant professor in social work, was speechless for a reason - to remember those who have been silenced by discrimination. She, along with 155 others, participated in the MU Day of Silence on Thursday.

The Day of Silence was one of 17 events that are part of Pride Month, which is organized by the MU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center.

At 5 p.m. in Room 1 of the Arts and Sciences Building, the participants broke their silence by shouting out the name of the person they were keeping silent for.

They wore T-shirts emblazoned with a smiley face with its mouth covered up and the phrase, "Open someone's eyes; shut your mouth." They gave away cards explaining their reason for keeping silent.

This year's turnout was the largest in the history of the event. It was also the first year that minorities were asked to participate.

"We've gone through similar struggles and we need to support each other for who we are," said Vimbai Madzura, president of Sigma Lambda Gamma.

Other participants said they were pleased with the turnout.

"This is one step in the right direction," Justin Ginter, a freshman in biological sciences, said. "They've incorporated everything to make it more powerful."

Some said discrimination is still a problem at MU. In an MU Campus Climate study done in 2002, more than 19 percent of respondents indicated they had experienced some form of harassment on campus. This feeling is particularly strong in the gay community.

Ginter said gays "are still ridiculed or called names, especially in places where it's male-oriented."

For Eric Arevalo, even a simple word spouted unknowingly can hurt. The senior, majoring in anthropology and psychology, recalled the time in Spanish class where he said "boyfriend," and his professor thought he used the wrong pronoun and corrected him with "girlfriend."

Jeanne Beck, a freshman majoring in international studies, is straight. The Day of Silence allowed her to experience the type of discrimination gays endure everyday. Beck said she was given "weird looks and stares" by people who assumed she was gay.

Most participants, however, said they have not experienced any overt form of discrimination.

"I have not experienced verbal harassment or physical violence," Snively said. "But that doesn't mean I'm always welcome and accepted."

Snively is a vocal supporter of gay rights and said some students and faculty members are uncomfortable with her taking such an active role in it. The walls of discrimination can be broken down through greater education and interaction among the various groups, she said.

"When we interact with one another more often and learn from one another, we can create bridges across differences," Snively said.

Beck agrees. "It's hard not to be biased, but you have to learn from other groups," she said. "You have to tell yourself to break this now."

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