Actions are louder than words: Day of Silence at UAF

Elika Roohi / Sun Star Reporter
April 19, 2011

On Friday, April 15, at 5 p.m. the members of the UAF Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) converged in Constitution Park and broke their daylong vow of silence with a scream.

The Day of Silence is a silent protest for those who have been harassed for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Every year, participating people take a vow of silence between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on April 15.

“Everyone who participates has a story,” said Nicki Karl, the secretary of the GSA at UAF.  “It might not be their story, it might be someone else’s.  But everyone has a story.”

The first Day of Silence was in 1996 on the University of Virginia campus.  That first year, more than 150 students participated, and everyone involved with it thought it to be a great success.

The Day of Silence has been around at UAF for several years, and many new people participate each year.

This year, the Fairbanks Freethinkers joined the GSA outside the Wood Center. The Freethinkers acted as the voice of the GSA when students had questions about what was going on.

“I know we’re supposed to be silent on the Day of Silence,” said Justin Heinz, the president of the Fairbanks Freethinkers.  “But it was nice to talk and explain it to people.”

Students paid a lot of attention to the table that the GSA and Freethinkers manned outside on April 15.

“I think we did a good job raising awareness,” said Stuart Ravn, a member of GSA.  “There were no hecklers.”

The GSA hasn’t had to face too much outright harassment, according to president Arvia Glass.

“Sometimes our flyers get taken down,” Glass said.  “Annoying stuff like that.”

According to Don Foley, the dean of students, there are usually only one or two reported cases of harassment towards LGBT youth a year.

“We’re very fortunate,” Foley said.

When issues do come up, UAF tries to take measures and separate the students to avoid further problems.

“I haven’t personally witnessed anything,” Glass said.

In addition to organizing the Day of Silence every year, the GSA provides a welcoming environment for those who feel unwelcome elsewhere.  They hold meetings every Friday from 4:30-5:30 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge.

“We have group get-togethers,” Glass said.  “The occasional fundraiser.”

This year was Glass’s first year organizing the Day of Silence, and under her direction, the GSA attracted many students with their silent protest against the harassment of LGBT youth.

“I think they do a very good job trying to educate the populace,” Foley said about the GSA’s organization of the Day of Silence.   “Let’s learn to be accepting.  We don’t all need to agree, but we certainly need to find a way to have a civil dialogue.”

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