Sound of silence
Junior Jeff Kern spent most of Wednesday in silence, conveying his thoughts on a dry-erase board.
“People will see that and think, ‘If they put that much time and effort into this, they must stand behind it,’ ” he said Tuesday of his plan.
Kern, along with thousands of students across the United States, participated in the National Day of Silence Wednesday to raise awareness of the harassment and discrimination that often silence gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students.
Spectrum, a group that raises awareness and provides support for LGBT students, coordinated the event, running a table in the Campus Mall and handing out small cards explaining their silence.
Ten students gathered at 5 p.m., and walked to Wilson Park, where they held a “Breaking the Silence” gathering with about 10 more students from UW-Stout and local high schools, sharing their experiences throughout the day.
Nationwide, more than 450,000 students from nearly 4,000 K-12 schools, colleges and universities participated in the National Day of Silence last year, according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Junior and Spectrum events coordinator Dale Larson said the Day of Silence is an attempt to show people what the world would be like if all LGBT people and their straight allies’ voices just weren’t there anymore.
“If we didn’t exist, what would the world sound like?” he said.
Nontraditional senior Lynn Gust said she came to show her support because of the harassment her son Forrest faced. He was forced to move after he found his apartment trashed, with the word “fag” carved into his oak chair.
“He didn’t choose to be gay,” Gust said. “I don’t look at (my other kids) and say, ‘This is . and he’s straight.’ ”
Kern, Spectrum’s Web coordinator, said he hasn’t had any harassment problems at UW-Eau Claire. But he said it bothers him when people use phrases like “That’s so gay.”
He said he only spoke twice during the day, and he remained silent an extra hour to compensate.
“My professor asked if I was sick in macroeconomics just because usually I don’t shut up,” he said via dry-erase board.
Freshman and Spectrum secretary Kristi Schuck said she made it all day without talking. “In one of my classes, we went around and said stuff, so that was pretty awkward,” she said.
Senior Carrie Schultz said six students in the eighth-grade classroom where she student teaches observed the Day of Silence. She said events like this are a good learning experience for younger students.
“Kids come to school to get educated, and that’s what we need to do,” she said.
Spectrum president Jacob Dougherty said that while LGBT students aren’t generally harassed in Eau Claire, straight students should be more supportive.
“I think in general, there is a sense of apathy,” he said. “There’s also no strong opposition to us either. I think there’s just a sense of complacency . I think it’s important that (straight allies) don’t just say they’re supportive but that they stand up.”
Gust agreed. “Diversity,” she said, “is not just a class you take.”