Statement through silence

By Megan Blauvelt

Rider Spectrum will strive to make a big statement today without any means of spoken communication on the Day of Silence.

Formerly known as the Rider Gay-Straight Alliance, Rider Spectrum is a student-run organization that aims to break down sexual and gender-based stereotypes while providing a comfortable atmosphere for its members, said President Patrick Callahan, junior elementary education and psychology major.

The Day of Silence is an event that is observed annually by the LGBTQ community.

“It is a national event that raises awareness for those silenced for identity expression,” Callahan said.

According to the official Day of Silence website run by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the event was created in response to a class assignment at the University of Virginia in 1996. There were 150 students who took part in this non-violent event, and by the following year, nearly 100 colleges and universities participated.

Students who partake in the event will be “as verbally non-communicative as possible,” said the club adviser and grants manager Michael Rutkowski. Cards will be given out at Daly’s during lunchtime, which will allow students to write why they are silent.

Reasons for participating vary from person to person. Many choose to restrict their voice generally for victims of “suicide, murder or anyone still living who cannot express themselves freely,” said Callahan.

Others choose to be silent for more personal reasons. Spectrum member and current sophomore Jessica Bohnenberger disclosed her experience.

“I didn’t know what being bi was,” said Bohnenberger. “It confused and scared me into not telling anyone. No one ever talked about liking both sexes, and since my high school wasn’t all that accepting, I had no clue being bi was a thing. I just stayed quiet.”

Two years is not a long period of time, Bohnenberger admitted. She will participate out of respect for those who have endured more than two years of silence and those who are still silent.

Whether the reason is personal or not, the LGBTQ community can still feel a connection through the stories, Callahan said.

The success of the Day of Silence can be determined in different ways. High schools have more success because they aren’t as large as colleges, said Bohnenberger.

“Participants are noticed more as a whole,” she said. “But at college, the people not talking are spread across more classes and bring awareness on an individual level.”

Although the Rider campus might have a few dozen people who will participate, thousands will do so nationwide, Rutkowski said.

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