Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Students Protest Discrimination During Annual Day Of Silence

By Talia AlbertsThe Daily Northwestern

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, a group of students joined hands in a circle next to The Rock and let out a loud scream.

The event concluded the 11th annual Day of Silence, when participants choose to abstain from speaking to protest the harassment and discrimination that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students face.

According to a study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in 2005, more than 64 percent of LGBT students reported verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school, and 29 percent reported missing at least one day of school in the past month due to a fear for personal safety.

The nationwide event was promoted at Northwestern by Rainbow Alliance.

Communication freshman Christie Stiehl co-organized the event. She said 49 participants officially signed up, but also noted that it’s common for people to observe the day on their own.

“We should be a pretty large voice – or lack thereof,” said Stiehl, Rainbow Alliance’s secretary.

Students participated in events throughout the day. At Norris University Center, Rainbow Alliance members handed out buttons to help inform students about their cause. They also handed out information cards explaining the significance behind their silence.

The cards read: “Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.”

At noon there was a silent lunch at 1835 Hinman. The last event of the day was the communal scream at The Rock. Following the scream, participants met in Norris to discuss their reactions and feelings from the day.

Weinberg sophomore and co-president of Rainbow Alliance Jessie Kaiser said she has participated in the day’s events for six years.

She described the day as an introspective experience.

“It is far more difficult to stay silent than one might think,” Kaiser said. “There is a lot of personal thought and it really makes you think about how we use words and interact with people throughout the day.”

For Stiehl, the day has been meaningful since high school.

“Growing up knowing that I was bisexual at a Catholic school was hard because I felt like I didn’t have a voice,” Stiehl said. “(Day of Silence) was really important because it was the day I got to show my support for LGBT.”

Others, such as Rainbow Alliance treasurer and Weinberg freshman Will Pearse, participated in the day for the first time.

“It’s so important because a lot of LGBT students aren’t comfortable being out and gay,” Pearse said. “Those that are should provide a community of love and support.”

Kaiser said some of her friends were confused by her choice to use silence as a method of protest.

“I know many people who ask, ‘Why do you do this day? How does being silent affect change? Don’t you need to be loud?'” Kaiser said. “Without this day they wouldn’t ask. The silence is far louder than words.”

Reach Talia Alberts at

[email protected]

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Students Protest Discrimination During Annual Day Of Silence